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Hihil Obstat: 

m $F, THOS. BERGH, O.S.B. 


Emprimatur : 


die 27th Maii 1910 

Made and Printed in Great Britain 


Preface by the Archbishop of Westminster as sta 
Sketch of Jean Pierre Camus, Bishop of Belley .. ag 
The French Publisher to the reader in 1639 ... oats 

Upon perfect virtue.. g 

Blessed Francis’ estimate of various virtues 

Upon the lesser virtues - 

Upon increase of Faith 

Upon temptations against F aith . 

Upon the same subject 

Upon confidence i in God .... 

Our misery appeals to God’s mercy 

Upon self distrust 

Upon the justice and mercy ‘of God 

On waiting upon God 

On the difference between a 2 holy desire of reward and 
a mercenary spirit a ce i e. 

Continuation of the same subject .. 

God should suffice for us all 

Charity the short road to perfection 

Upon what it is to love God truly 

Upon the Love of God in general ... ive 

All for Love of God.. m ae x 

The same subject continued 

Upon the Love of God called love ‘of benwvelenee 

Disinterested Love of God . Si avers 

Upon the character of a true Christian : 

Upon not putting limits to our Love of God ... 

Upon the law and the just man ... nett: 

Upon desires 

How Charity excels ‘both Faith and Hope 

Some thoughts of Blessed Francis on the Passion 

Upon the vanity of heathen philosophy ... 

Upon the pure love of our pabaur i 

Upon bearing with one another . 

Upon fraternal correction .. 

Upon finding excuses for the faults of our fellow-men 

Upon not judging others ai - _ 

Upon judging ourselves 

Upon slander and detraction 

Upon hasty judgments ; eee ae E 

Upon ridiculing one’s neighbour g n am 

Upon contradicting others . : 

Upon loving our enemies ... 



Upon forgiving our enemies 

Upon the virtue of condescension . 

How he adapted himself to times, “places and circum- 

Upon the deference due to inferiors and dependents .. 

On the way to treat servants i 

Another instance of his gentleness with his servants 

His never refusing what was asked of him m 

Upon almsgiving <4 

His hopefulness in regard to the conversion of sinners 

His solicitude for malefactors condemned to death 

Upon the small number of the elect ... os 

To love to be hated, and to hate to be loved . 

Upon obedience Res ate 

Upon the obedience that may be practised by Superiors 

An instance of his obedience i ; m ; 

Upon the Love of Holy mies 

Upon the same subject f 

Upon poverty of opii 

His love of the poor. 

Upon the Christian view af Poverty 

Upon Prosperity ' 

Upon Chastity and Charity 

Upon purity of heart A 

Upon Chastity and Humility 

Upon Modesty a m 

The contempt he felt for his body ny k.. 

Upon his Humility ... ; be ; 

Upon humbleness in speech only .. 

Upon various degrees of Humility 

Upon Humiliation 

Humility with regard to perfection 

Upon excuses $ A. Ee 

Upon our good name me 

Upon despising the esteem of men = 

Upon the virtues we should practice when culum- 
niated wen E- . 

Upon some spiritual maxims 

Upon Patience es 

How to profit by bearing with insults a 

Upon bearing with importunities . 

That he who complains sins 

His calmness in tribulations 

His test of patience in suffering . 

Upon long illnesses . 

His holy indifference | in illness ha pA ka Pi 
Upon the shape of the Cross a a A 
A diamond Cross ... A oat P 

Holy Magdalen at the foot of the Cross ... 





Upon the power of gentleness and patience 

A rejoinder both striking and instructive 

His favourite beatitude 

His gravity and affability .. 

How he dealt with a criminal who "despaired of 
salvation ... ae M; ya a 

Upon mortification 

Upon the same subject 

Upon fasting . 

Doubts solved as to ‘soldiers fasting 

The golden mean in dispensations 

Upon the words “ Eat of i ino that is set ‘before 
you’ ‘ ae, ; 

Upon the state ‘of perfection ; 

Marks of progress in perfection RA oe 

Upon the perfection aimed at in Religious Houses mn 

Upon Frugality : vs om, 

Flis esteem of the virtue of simplicity gm 

His love of exactitude pe 

The test of Religious Vocation . 

Upon following the common life. 

Upon Vocations : 

Upon Prudence and ‘Simplicity . 

The same subject continued 

Upon mental prayer... 

Upon Aspirations è 

Upon interior recollection and ejaculatory prayers 

Upon doing and enduring .. a í a 

Upon Mortification and Prayer 

Upon the Presence of God . 

His unity of spirit with God 

His gratitude to God for spiritual Nations . 

Upon the shedding of tears 

Upon joy and sadness 

On the degrees of true devotion.. 

The test of true devotion ... 

What it means to be a servant of Tods w: 

That devotion does not always spring from Charity .. 

Upon perfect contentment in the privation of all 
content... ae TR Y sia 5 

Upon the Will of God 

His resignation to the Will of God aces 

ie e must always submit ourselves to God’s holy 

1 eee coc 

His sublime thoughts on holy indifference - 

Nothing save sin happens to us but by hd Will of God 

Upon the same subject hi à Je 

Upon abandoning ourselves to God 

Upon interior desolation 










Upon the presence in our souls of the Grace of God... 

Upon our wish to save our soul ... 

Upon good natural inclinations ... 

How to speak of God 

Upon eccentricities in devotion ... 

Upon Confraternities : oe 

Upon intercourse with the world TA 
Against over-eagerness 

Upon the same subject 

Upon liberty of spirit 

Upon nature and grace TA 

Upon exaggerated introspection ... 

Upon interior reformation ... 

His vision of the Most Holy Trinity 

His devotion to our Blessed Lady... 

His devotion to the Holy “e Sheet of Turin 
Upon merit ... 

Upon good will and good desires . 

Against the making of rash vows ... 

Upon the pro-passions of Our Lord 

His victory over the passions of love and anger 
Upon our passions and emotions ... ie ot 
How he came to write his Philothea 
Upon the example of the Saints ... 

Upon the love of God’s word 

His love of retirement tt ” 

How he sanctified his recreations . 

What he drew from lines of poetry ; 
Upon being content with our condition in life. 
Upon self-sufficiency and contentedness . 
His reverence for the sick . Fis 

Upon the care of the sick. 

Upon speaking well of the dead.. 

Upon Death A 

Upon wishing to die .. Ap: 

Unon the desire of Heaven... 

What it is to die in God 

Upon length of life... 

Upon Purgatory a on 

Upon Penance eo ff 

Upon penitent confusion ... 

Upon interior peace amidst anxieties 
Upon discouragement Ms on = 
Upon rising after a fall... on T 
Upon kindliness towards ourselves ae 
Upon imperfections 

The just man falls seven times in the day 
Upon the purgative way ... Ri: Bs 
Upon venial sin 


Upon complicity in the sins of another ... 

Upon equivocating ... ga 

Upon solitude 

Upon vanity ... 

Upon the knowledge which pufts: up 

Upon scruples 

Upon temptations 

Upon the same subject 

Thoughts on the Incarnation 

Upon Confession and Communion 

Upon Confession T 

Upon a change of confessor. T 

Upon different methods of direction 

Advice upon having a Director 

Upon true and mistaken zeal 

Upon the institution of the Visitation Order 

His defence of his new Congregation of the Visitation 

Upon the odour of sanctity... s = m 

He rebukes Pharisaism : a : 

Upon religious Superiors ... ae a es 

Upon unlearned Superiors ... ae TS ro 

Upon the founding of Convents ... mr ki 

Upon receiving the infirm into pee aa = 

Upon self pity : 

Upon the government of Nuns by religious men 

That we must not be wedded to our own plans ... 

His views regarding Ecclesiastical dignities 

His promotion to the Bishopric of Geneva and his 
refusal of the Archbishopric of Paris 2M 

A Bishop’s care for his flock z 

Upon the first duty of Bishops ; 

Upon the pastoral charge ... inp an ies 

Upon the care of souls 

Upon learning and piety . a 

Advice to Bishop Camus as 5 to resigning his See Fae 

The joyous spirit of Blessed Francis 

Upon daily Mass. His advice to a young Priest 

A Priest saying Mass should be considerate of others 

Blessed Francis encourages the Bishop of Belley ... 

Upon a compassionate mind fe 

Upon doing one’s duty without respect of persons ee 

The honour due to virtue ... 7m san a 

Upon memory and judgment 

A Priest should not aim at imitating in a his germons 
some particular preacher m oe a 

Upon short sermons . re 

Upon preaching and ‘preachers n 

Blessed Francis and the Bishop of Belley’ S sermon 

Upon controversy aA m . ag 





The same subject continued cue im oes se A 
Upon reason and reasoning ar a lt s GAO 
Upon quoting Holy Scripture... en P a1 OO 
Upon political diplomacy ... or ae ea +. WI 
Upon ambition y e sa u ae . AD 
Upon courts and courtiers ... ae ay an ... 404 
Upon the Carnival ... RG s.. AJO 
An instance of his compassion for ‘animals ne. oe 407 
Upon hunting a ae os Be as ee 
Upon the fear of ghosts ee b << a woe KOI 
His portrait ... We a ee oars ee EOS 

Upon his true charity Da = aes ee 1. 504 


The Spirit of a Saint we may, perhaps, regard 
as the underlying characteristic which pervades 
all his thoughts, words, and acts. It is the note 
which sounds throughout the constant persevering 
harmony which makes the holiness of his life. 
Circumstances change. He grows from childhood 
to boyhood; from youth to manhood. His time 
of preparation is unnoticed by the world until the 
moment comes when he is called to a_ public 
activity which arrests attention. And essentially 
he remains the same. [n private as in public, in 
intimate conversation as in writings or discourses, 
in the direction of individual consciences as in the 
conduct of matters of wide importance, there is a 
characteristic note which identifies him, and marks 
him off apart even from other heroes of sanctity. - 

We owe to a keen and close observer a know- 
ledge of the spirit of St. Francis de Sales for which 
we cannot be too grateful. Let it be granted that 
Mgr. Camus had a very prolific imagination; that 
he had an unconscious tendency to embroider facts; 
that he read a meaning into words which thetr 
speaker had no thought of imparting to them. 
When all such allowances have been made, we 
must still admit that he has given to us a picture 

xiv Preface 

of the Saint which we should be loath to lose; and 
that his description of what the Saint habitually 
thought and felt has made Saint Francis de Sales 
a close personal friend to many to whom otherwise 
he would have remained a mere chance acquaint- 

The Bishop of Belley, while a devoted admirer, 
was at the same time a critical observer of his 
saintly friend. He wanted to know the reasons 
of what he saw, he did not always approve, and 
he was sufficiently indiscreet to put questions 
which, probably, no one else would have dared to 
frame. And thus we know more about St. Francis 
than about any other Saint, and we owe real grati- 
tude to his very candid, talkative, and out-spoken 
episcopal colleague. 

Many years ago a brief abridgment of the 
‘“ Spirit of St. Francis de Sales ° was published 
in English. It served its purpose, but left un- 
satisfied the desire of his clients for a fuller work. 
To-day the Sisters of the Visitation, now estab- 
lished at Harrow-on-the-Hill, give abundant satis- 
faction to this long-felt desire. Inspired by the 
purpose of the late Dom Benedict Mackey, O.S.B., 
which his premature death prevented him from 
accomplishing, and guided by the advice which he 
left in writing, these Daughters of St. Francis of 
Sales, on the occasion of their Tercentenary, give 
to the English-speaking world a work which, in 
its wise curtailment and still full detail, may be 
called the quintessence of the Spirit of their 
Master, the Founder of their Institute. We thank 
them for their labour; and we beg God’s blessing 
upon this book, that it may be the means of show- 

Preface xv 

ing to many souls that safe and easy way of 
sanctification and salvation, which it was the special 
mission of the saintly Bishop of Geneva to make 
known to the world. 


May 18th, 1910. 



JEAN PIERRE CAMUS came of an illustrious, and 
much respected family of Auxonne in Burgundy, 
in which province it possessed the seigneuries of 
Saint Bonnet and Pont-carré. 

He was born in Paris, November 3rd, 1584. 

His grandfather was for some years Adminis- 
trator of the Finances under King Henri III. 
Though he had had the management of the public 
funds during a period when fraud and dishonesty 
were as easy as they were common, he retired from 
office without having added a single penny to his 
patrimony. On one occasion having received 
from Henri III. the gift of a sum of 50,000 crowns, 
which had been left by a Jew who had died intes- 
tate, and without children, this upright adminis- 
trator sent for three merchants who had lost all 
their property in a fire, and distributed it among 

The father of our Prelate, inheriting this integ- 
rity, left an honourable name, but few worldly 
goods to his children. 

Faithful, and devoted to the interests of his king, 
Henri IV., he gave part of his fortune to the 
support of the good cause, the triumph of which 
he had the happiness of witnessing. He died in 


2 The Bishop of Belley 

The mantle of paternal loyalty and patriotism 
undoubtedly descended upon the young J. P. 
Camus, for second only to his love for God, and 
His Church, was his devotion to France, and its 

On his mother’s side, as well as on his father’s, 
he was well connected. Her family had given to 
France chancellors, secretaries of state, and other 
distinguished personages, but noble as were the 
races from which he sprang their chief distinction 
is derived from the subject of this sketch. 

‘* This one branch,” says his panegyrist, ‘‘ bore 
more blossoms and more fruit than all the others 
together. In John Peter the gentle rivulet of the 
Camus’ became a mighty stream, yet one whose 
course was peaceful, and which loved to flow 
underground, as do certain rivers which seem to 
lose themselves in the earth, and only emerge 
to precipitate themselves into the waters of the 

Books and objects of piety were the toys of his 
childhood, and his youth was passed in solitude, 
and in the practices of the ascetic life. His 
physical strength as it increased with his years, 
seemed only to serve to assist him in curbing and 
restraining a somewhat fiery temperament. His 
wish, which at one time was very strong, to be- 
come a Carthusian, was not indeed fulfilled, it 
being evident from the many impediments put in 
its way, that it was not a call from God. 

Nevertheless, this desire of self-sacrifice in a 
cloistered life was only thwarted in order that he 
might sacrifice himself in another way, namely, by 
becoming a Bishop, which state, if its functions 
are rightly discharged, assuredly demands greater 

The Bishop of Belley 3 

self-immolation than does that of a monk, and is 
indeed a martyrdom that ceases only with life itself. 

If he did not submit himself to the Rule of the 
Carthusians by entering their Order, he neverthe- 
less adopted all its severity, and to the very end 
of his life kept his body in the most stern and 
rigorous subjection. 

This, and his early inclination towards the re- 
ligious life, will not a little astonish his detractors, 
if any such still exist, for it is surely a convincing 
proof that he was not the radical enemy of monas- 
ticism they pretend. In his studies he displayed 
great brilliancy, being especially distinguished in 
theology and canon law, to the study of which he 
consecrated four years of his life. 

After he had become a Priest his learning, piety, 
and eloquence not only established his reputation 
as a preacher in the pulpits of Paris, but soon even 
crossed the threshold of the Louvre and reached 
the ears of Henry IV. That monarch, moved by 
the hope of the great services which a prelate might 
render to the Church even more than by the affec- 
tion which he bore to the Camus family, decided 
to propose him for a Bishopric, although he was 
but twenty-five, and had not therefore reached the 
canonical age for that dignity. 

The young Priest was far too humble and also 
too deeply imbued with a sense of the awful respon- 
sibility of the office of a Bishop to expect, or to 
desire to be raised to it. When, however, Pope 
Paul V. gave the necessary dispensation, M. 
Camus submitted to the will both of the Pontiff 
and of the King, and was consecrated Bishop of 
Belley by St. Francis de Sales, August 30, 1600. 

The fact that the two dioceses of Geneva and 

4 The Bishop of Belley 

Belley touched one another contributed to further 
that close intimacy which was always maintained 
between the Bishops, the younger consulting the 
elder on all possible occasions, and in all imagin- 
able difficulties. 

Bishop Camus had already referred his 
scruples regarding his youth at the time of his 
consecration to his holy director. The latter had, 
however, reminded him of the many reasons there 
were to justify his submission, viz., the needs of 
the diocese, the testimony to his fitness given by 
so many persons of distinction and piety, the 
judgment of Henry the Great, in fine the command 
of His Holiness. In consecrating Mgr. Camus, 
St. Francis de Sales seems to have transmitted to 
the new Prelate some of the treasures of his own 
holy soul. Camus was the only Bishop whom he 
ever consecrated, and doubtless this fact increased 
the tender affection which Francis bore him. John 
Peter was, what he loved to call himself, and what 
St. Francis loved to call him, the latter’s only son. 
There was between the two holy Prelates a com- 
munity of intelligence and of life. ‘* Camus,’’ 
says Godeau, the preacher of his funeral discourse, 
‘fever sat at the feet of St. Francis de Sales, whom 
he called his Gamaliel, there to learn from him the 
law of God: full as he himself was of the know- 
ledge of Divine things.” 

We must bear this in mind if we wish to know 
what Camus really was, and to appreciate him 
properly. He was by nature ardent, impetuous, 
and imaginative, eager for truth and goodness, 
secretly devoted to the austere practices of St. 
Charles Borromeo, but above all fervently desirous 
to imitate his model, his beloved spiritual Father, 

The Bishop of Belley 5 

and therefore anxious to subdue, and to temper all 
that was too impetuous, excitable, and hard in him- 
self, by striving after the incomparable sweetness 
and tenderness which were the distinguishing char- 
acteristics of St. Francis de Sales. 

Mgr. Camus was endowed with a most marvel- 
lous memory, which was indeed invaluable to him 
in the great work to which both Bishops devoted 
themselves, that of bringing back into the bosom 
of the Church those who had become strangers, 
and even enemies to her. 

His chief defect was that he was over hasty in 
judging, and of this he was himself perfectly well 
aware. He tells us in the “ Esprit” that on one 
occasion when he was bewailing his deficiency to 
Francis, the good Prelate only smiled, and told 
him to take courage, for that as time went on it 
would bring him plenty of judgment, that being 
one of the fruits of experience, and of advancing 

Whenever Mgr. Camus visited the Bishop of 
Geneva, which he did each year in order to make 
a retreat of several days under the direction of his 
spiritual Father, he was treated with the greatest 
honour by him. 

St. Francis de Sales gave up his own room to 
his guest, and made him preach, and discharge 
other episcopal functions, so as to exercise him in 
his own presence in these duties of his sublime 

This was the school in which Camus learnt to 
control and master himself, to curb his natural 
impetuosity, and to subjugate his own will, and 
thus to acquire one, in our opinion, of the most 
certain marks of saintliness. 

6 The Bishop of Belley 

The Bishop of Geneva was not contented with 
receiving his only son at Annecy. He often went 
over to Belley, and spent several days there in his 
company. These visits were to both Prelates a 
time of the greatest consolation. Then they 
spoke, as it were, heart to heart, of all that they 
valued most. Then they encouraged one another 
to bear the burden of the episcopate. Then they 
consoled each other in the troubles which they met 
with in their sacred ministry. 

It never cost the younger Bishop anything to 
yield obedience to the elder, and no matter how 
great, or how trifling was the occasion which called 
for the exercise of that virtue, there was never a 
moment’s hesitation on the part of the Bishop of 

The latter, indeed, considered the virtue of 
Obedience as the one most calculated to ensure 
rapid advance in the spiritual life. He tells us that 
One day at table someone having boasted that he 
could make an egg stand upright on a plate, a 
thing which those present, forgetting Christopher 
Columbus, insisted was impossible, the Saint, 
as Columbus had done, quietly taking one up 
chipped it a little at one end, and so made it stand. 
The company all cried out that there was nothing 
very great in that trick. ‘‘ No,” repeated the 
Saint, ‘‘ but all the same you did not know it.” 

We may say the same, adds Camus, of obedi- 
ence: it is the true secret of perfection, and yet few 
people know it to be so. 

From what we have already seen of the character 
of John Peter Camus, we may imagine that gentle- 
ness was the most difficult for him to copy of the 
virtues of St. Francis de Sales; yet steel, though 

The Bishop of Belley 7 

much stronger than iron, is at the same time far 
more readily tempered. 

Thus, in his dealings with his neighbour he be- 
haved exactly like his model, so much so, that for 
anyone who wanted to gain his favour the best plan 
was to offend him or do him some injury. 

I have spoken of his love of mortification, and a 
short extract from the funeral discourse pronounced 
over his remains will show to what extent he prac- 
tised it. 

Godeau says: ‘‘ Our virtuous Bishop up to the 
very last years of his life, slept either on a bed of 
vine shoots, or on boards, or on straw. This 
custom he only abandoned in obedience to his 
director, and in doing so I consider that he accom- 
plished what was far more difficult and painful 
than the mortifications which he had planned for 
himself, since the sacrifice of our own will in these 
matters is incomparably more disagreeable to us 
than the practising of them.”’ 

This austerity in respect to sleep, of which, 
indeed, he required more than others on account 
of his excitable temperament, did not suffice to 
satisfy his love for penance, without which, he 
said, the leading of a Christian and much more of 
an episcopal life was impossible. To bring his 
body into subjection he constantly made use of 
hair-shirts, iron belts, vigils, fasting, and the 
discipline, and it was not until his last illness that 
he gave up those practices of austerity. He con- 
cealed them, however, as carefully as though he 
had been ashamed of them, knowing well that such 
sacrifices if not offered in secret, partake more of 
the spirit of Pharisaism than of the gospel. This 
humility, notwithstanding, he was unable to 

8 The Bishop of Belley 

guard against the pardonable curiosity of his 
servants. One of them, quite a young man, who 
was his personal attendant during the first years of 
his residence at Belley, observing that he wore 
round his neck the key of a large cupboard, and 
being very anxious to know what it contained, 
managed in some way to possess himself of this 
key for a few moments, when his master had laid 
it aside, and was not in the room. 

Unlocking the cupboard he found it full of the 
vine shoots on which he was accustomed to sleep. 
The bed which everyone saw in his apartment was 
the Bishop’s; the one which he hid away was the 
penitent’s. The one was for appearance, the other 
for piety. He used to put into disorder the 
coverings of the bed, so as to give the impression 
of having slept in it, while he really slept, or at 
least took such repose as was necessary to keep 
him alive, on the penitential laths he had hidden. 

Having discovered that through his valet the 
rumour of his austerity had got abroad, he dis- 
missed the young man from his service, giving him 
a handsome present, and warning him to be less 
Curious in future. But for his failing, however, 
we should have lost a great example of the Bishop’s 
mortification and humility. 

The latter virtue John Peter Camus cultivated 
most carefully, and how well he succeeded in this 
matter is proved by the composure, and even 
gaiety and joyousness, with which he met the 
raillery heaped upon his sermons, and writings. 

Camus, like the holy Bishop of Geneva, had 
throughout his life a special devotion to the 
Blessed Virgin, and never failed in his daily 
recital of the Rosary. Every evening it was his 

The Bishop of Belley 9 

habit to read a portion of either The Spiritual Com- 
bat, or the Imitation of Jesus Christ; two books 
which he recommended to his penitents as next in 
usefulness to the gospels. 

Following him in his Episcopal career we find 
that as the years rolled on his reputation passed 
beyond the confines of France, and reached the 

Pope Paul V., who knew him intimately, held 
him in high esteem, and all the Cardinals honoured 
him with their friendship. 

Had it not been for his own firm resistance to 
every proposal made to him to quit his poor 
diocese of Belley, Mgr. Camus would assuredly 
have been transferred to some much more im- 
portant See. 

And here we may again quote the words of his 
panegyrist, to indicate the fruits produced by his 
zeal in the little corner of the vineyard of the 
Divine Master, which had been confided to his 
skilful hands. 

Godeau says, ‘* The interior sanctity which lhe 
strove to acquire for himself by prayer, by reading 
holy books, by the mortification of his senses, by 
the putting aside of all secular affairs when engaged 
in prayer, by humility, patience, and charity, 
were the inexhausible source whence flowed all his 
external works, and whence they derived all their 
purity and vigour.” 

As regarded the poor and needy in his diocese, 
Mgr. Camus was no less generous in ministering 
to their temporal than to their spiritual wants. 
He looked upon himself as simply a steward of 
the goods of the Church. He, indeed, drew the 
revenues of his diocese, but only as rivers draw 

10 The Bishop of Belley 

their waters from the sea, to pay them back again 
to it with usury. 

More than once in years of famine he gave all his 
corn to the poor, not as Joseph did in Egypt by 
depriving them of their liberty, but by depriving 
himself of what was necessary for his support, and 
treating himself no better than the rest of the poor. 

One day he was told that the dearness of wine 
was the cause of great distress among working 
people. He immediately gave orders that his own 
wine should be sold, but after a most curious and 
unusual fashion. He would not have any fixed 
price set upon it, but only desired that an open 
bag should be held at the door of the cellar so that 
purchasers might throw in what they pleased. You 
may be sure that the bag was not very full and that 
the buyers availed themselves to the utmost of his 

What, however, do you think he did with the 
small amount of money which he found in the 
bag? Even that he forthwith distributed among 
the poor! Surely if anything can approach the 
miraculous transformation of water into wine it is 
Bishop Camus’ mode of selling it ! 

After having established in his diocese that order 
and peace which are the fruits of the knowledge and 
observance of the duties of religion, and having 
formed a body of clergy remarkable for their piety 
and learning, Mgr. Camus thought he ought to 
advance even a Step further. 

He felt that it was his duty to have in his 
Episcopal city a community of Religious men who 
by their example should assist both clergy and 
laity in their spiritual life. He did this by build- 

The Bishop of Belley 11 

ing, at his own expense, in 1620, a Capuchin 

For a long time he supplied these Friars with 
all that they needed, and finally gave them his own 
library, which was both choice and extensive. 

He was equally cordial in his relationship with 
other Orders, welcoming them gladly to his own 
house, and often making retreats in their 

Camus was too intimately connected with Francis 
de Sales not to have with him a community of 

Knowing how useful the newly-formed Order of 
the Visitation would be to the Church, he also 
founded at Belley, in 1662, a Convent, to which 
he invited some nuns of the New Congregation. 
This Institution of the holy Bishop of Geneva was 
vigorously attacked from its very beginning. It 
was called in derision, the Confraternity of the 
Descent from the Cross, because its pious founder 
had excluded from this order corporal austerities, 
and had adapted all his rules to the reforming of 
the interior. The Bishop of Belley declared him- 
self champion of this new Institution. Indeed, his 
ardent soul was always on fire to proclaim and to 
maintain the glory of the Church. At whatever 
point She was attacked or threatened there Camus 
was to be found armed cap-a-pie to defend her. 

As for his own temporal interests, they were 
to him matters of absolute indifference when 
weighed in the balance of that beloved Church. 
His own words, however, speak best on this sub- 

On one occasion, when a Minister of State wrote 
to ask him something contrary to those interests, 

12 The Bishop of Belley 

backing up his request with the most liberal 
promises, the Bishop of Belley, after courteously 
excusing himself from complying with the request, 
wound up his answer to the statesman with these 
remarkable words: This is all that can be said to 
you by a Bishop who, as regards the past, is under 
no obligation to anyone; as regards the present 
without interest; and as regards the future has no 
pretentions whatever. 

We have said that the Bishop of Belley was 
indefatigable in labouring for the sanctification 
of his people, but this did not in any way prevent 
him from bestowing due care upon the interests of 
his own soul. 

With this object in view he considered that after 
long years of toil for his flock he ought to retire 
from the world, so as to have more time to devote 
to himself. To live in solitude had been the desire 
of his youth, as we know it was ever his desire 
through all the period of his Episcopate; but his 
spiritual guide, the holy Bishop of Geneva, always 
succeeded in dissuading him from laying down the 
pastoral staff to take refuge in the cloister. 

However, after the death of his illustrious friend 
and counsellor, this desire returned to Camus with 
redoubled force. For seven years, out of respect 
for the advice of his dear dead friend, he abstained 
from carrying out his purpose, and during that 
time of waiting, relaxing nothing in the ardour of 
his love for his people and his zeal for the Church, 
he devoted himself to the work of repairing and 
restoring his Cathedral, which was accomplished in 
the year 1627. 

When in 1837 this ancient edifice was pulled 
down in order to be rebuilt, an inscription was 

The Bishop of Belley 13 

discovered stating this fact, which is not otherwise 
mentioned in any extant writings, probably be- 
cause those in which it was recorded were among 
the rich archives of the Chapter destroyed by the 
fury of the vandals of 1793. 

At last, in 1628, Camus finally decided to give 
up his Episcopal charge to one who was indeed 
worthy of such a dignity. 

This was Jean de Passelaigne, Abbot of Notre 
Dame de Hambic, Prior of St. Victor of Nevers, 
and of La Charité-sur-Loire, Vicar-General of the 
Order of Cluny. 

Then, having obtained the King’s consent, 
Camus retired from the diocese of Belley, which he 
had ruled so happily and so well for twenty years, 
to the Cistercian Abbey of Annay, there to exercise 
in the calm of solitude all those virtues to the 
practice of which he said the stir and bustle 
inseparable from the episcopal functions had not 
allowed him to devote himself. This he did, it 
would seem, towards the end of 1628, or the be- 
ginning of 1629. 

The Abbey of Annay, which the King gave to 
him on receiving his resignation of the See of 
Belley, was situated: in Normandy, near Caen. 
There Camus dwelt for some time, not, however, 
leading an idle life, for we find that a great many 
of his works were printed at Caen. He also 
succeeded in introducing into this Religious 
House, and into the neighbouring one of Ardaine, 
that reform which it was the desire of his heart 
to bring back to all the Monasteries of France. 
It was while in Normandy that he made the 
acquaintance of Pére Eudes, and between these 
two holy Priests the closest friendship sprang up, 

14 The Bishop of Belley 

founded on a mutual zeal for the salvation of souls. 
The Bishop of Belley was not long allowed to en- 
joy his quiet retreat at Annay. François de Harlay, 
Archbishop of Rouen, being unable at that time, 
owing to ill health, to exercise his duties as a 
Bishop, felt convinced that Providence had sent 
Mgr. Camus into his diocese on purpose that he 
might share his labours. His earnest entreaties 
prevailed upon the good Bishop to emerge from 
his retreat and help to bear the burden which 
pressed so heavily upon a sick and failing Prelate. 
At Belley he had been accountable to God alone 
for the discharge of those duties which he had 
for a time laid aside; now at the call of charity he 
did not hesitate to take up the burden again to ease 
another. He was appointed Vicar-General to the 
Archbishop of Rouen, renouncing, like St. Paul, 
his liberty in order to become the servant of all 
men, and thus gain more souls to Jesus Christ. 
Although in this new sphere Camus laboured 
with the utmost devotion and untiring energy, 
living a life of ascetic severity, fasting, sleeping 
on straw, or spending whole nights in prayer, 
while his days were given to preaching, confirming, 
hearing confessions, visiting the sick, consoling 
the afflicted, advising, exhorting, patiently listen- 
ing to the crowds who flocked to consult him, yet 
he still felt certain that the voice of God called 
him to solitude and to a perpetual retreat. 
Desiring to spend the rest of his days among 
the poor whom he loved so well, he came to Paris, 
and took up his abode in the Hospital for Incur- 
ables, situated in the Rue de Sèvres. He reserved 
for himself out of his patrimony and benefices 
only 500 livres, which he paid to the hospital for 

The Bishop of Belley 15 

his board and lodging, distributing the remainder 
among the needy. 

In this hospital he passed his time in ministering 
to the sick, dressing their wounds, consoling, 
and instructing them, and performing for them 
all the functions of an ordinary Chaplain. 

Even if he went out to visit friends in the 
vicinity of Paris, he never returned later than five 
o’clock in the evening. Occasionally he preached 
in the chapel of the Duke of Orleans before His 
Royal Highness, and at such times denounced 
vehemently the luxury and indolence of Princes 
and courtiers. 

There was at this time a diocese in a no less 
pitiable condition than was Belley when Mgr. 
Camus was, at the King’s desire, placed in charge 
of it. This diocese was that of Arras, and on the 
28th of May, 1650, he was appointed by Louis 
XIV., acting under the advice of the Queen- 
Regent, to administer all the affairs of the diocese 
until such time as a new Bishop should be 
nominated to the vacant See by His Majesty and 
our Holy Father the Pope. Into this laborious 
task of sowing, ploughing, cultivating a vast 
weed-grown, and unpromising field, Camus threw 
himself with all his old ardour and energy. He 
did so much in a very short time that his name 
will long be remembered among the descendants 
of those from whom the troubles of the times 
snatched him so suddenly, but not before he had 
bound them to France while leading them to God 
by bands of love stronger than citadels or garrisons. 

Political disturbances and the calamities of war 
having prevented this indefatigable servant of 
God from carrying on his work at Arras, he with- 

16 The Bishop of Belley 

drew again in the following year to the Hospital 
of the Incurables at Paris, there to await better 
times, and also doubtless the expected Bull from 
the Sovereign Pontiff. However, the great 
Rewarder called Camus to Himself before the Pope 
had sanctioned his appointment to the Bishopric 
of Arras. 

But ere we close this slight sketch of the life 
of the good Bishop, and speak of its last scenes, 
we must say a word about the gigantic literary 
labours which occupied him more or less from the 
time of his retirement to the Abbey of Annay, in 
1628, till his death, in 1652. 

It was his great love for the Church which made 
him take pen in hand. Varied as were the 
subjects on which he wrote, his writings, whether 
controversial, dogmatic, devotional or even light 
and entertaining, had but one single aim and end— 
the instruction of mankind and the glorification 
of Catholicism. 

If we bear this in mind we shall be ready to 
forgive the bitterness and harshness which we may 
admit characterised many of his writings. To 
reform the Monasteries of France, and to deal a 
death blow to the abuses which had crept into 
some of them, was the passionate desire of his 

This, and not a personal hatred of monks, as 
his enemies have averred, was the moving spring 
of his actions in this crusade of the pen. At the 
same time we do not deny that his natural im- 
petuosity and keen sense of humour made him too 
often, in accordance with the bad taste of the day, 
present the abuses which he wished to reform, 
in so ridiculous and contemptible a light, 

The Bishop of Belley 17 

as to provoke and irritate his enemies, perhaps 

Yet, if in this he showed the lack of judgment 
which he had years before lamented in himself, can 
anyone who knows what those times were, and who 
is as jealous for the honour of God as he was, 
blame him? There was another evil of the day 
which the good Bishop witnessed with grief and 
indignation, and set himself zealously to reform. 
This was the publishing of romances, or novels, 
which, as then written, could only poison the 
minds of their readers, inflame their passions, and 
weaken their sense of right and wrong. He 
pondered the matter, and having made up his 
mind that it would be absolutely useless to endea- 
vour to hinder their being read, as this would only 
increase the obstinacy and perversity of those who 
took pleasure in them, he decided on adopting 
another method altogether, as he himself said, he 
‘‘ tried to make these poor diseased folk, with their 
depraved taste and morbid cravings, swallow his 
medicine under the disguise of sweetmeats.”’ 

That is to say, he himself began to write novels 
and romances for them; romances which, indeed, 
depicted the profligacy of the age, but in such 
odious colours as to inspire aversion and contempt. 
Vice, if described, was held up to ridicule and 
loathing. The interest of the story was so well 
kept up as to carry the reader on to the end, and 
that end often showed the hero or heroine so 
entirely disabused of the world’s enchantment as 
to retire voluntarily into convents, in order, by an 
absolute devotion of the heart to God, to repair the 
injury done to Him, by giving to the creature the 
love due to Him alone. 


18 The Bishop of Belley 

These books passed from hand to hand in the 
gay world, were read, were enjoyed, and the fruit 
gathered from them by the reader was the convic- 
tion that God being Himself the Sovereign God, 
all other love but that of which He is the object 
and the end, is as contrary to the happiness of man 
as it is opposed to all the rules of justice. 

Let us hear what Camus himself says as to his 
motive and conduct in the matter of novel writing.’ 

“The enterprise on which I have embarked of 
wrestling with, or rather contending against those 
idle or dangerous books, which cloak themselves 
under the title of novels, would surely demand 
the hands of Briareus to wield as many pens, and 
the strength of Hercules to support such a burden! 
But what cannot courage, zeal, charity, and con- 
fidence in God accomplish ? ”’ 

He goes on to say that though he sees all the 
difficulties ahead, his courage will not fail, for he 
holds his commission from a Saint, the holy 
Bishop of Geneva, in whose intercessions, and in 
the assistance of the God of Saints, he trusts, and 
is confident of victory. 

He tells us in several of his works, and especially 
in his ‘“ Unknown Traveller,” that it was St. 
Francis de Sales who first advised him to use his 
pen in this manner, and that for twenty-five years 
the Saint had been cogitating and developing this 
design in his brain. 

In the same little pamphlet Camus points out 
the methods he followed as a novel writer. 

“Tt consists,” he says, “‘in saying only good 
things, dealing only with good subjects, the single 

l1 In the preface of his book, entitled “Strange 

The Bishop of Belley 19 

aim of which is to deter from vice, and to lead on 

He was an extraordinarily prolific and rapid 
writer, scarcely ever correcting or polishing up 
anything that he had put on paper. This was a 
defect, but it was the natural outcome of his tem- 
perament, which was a curious combination of 
lightness and solidity, gaiety and severity. 

Few people really understood him. He was 
often taken for a mere man of the world, when in 
truth he was one of the stoutest champions of 
the Church, and in his inner life, grave and ascetic, 
macerating his flesh like a monk of the desert. He 
wrote in all about 200 volumes, 50 of these being 

In the latter, which drew down upon him such 
storms of bitter invective, owing to his freedom of 
language in treating of the vices against which he 
was warning his readers, we do not pretend to 
admire his work, but must remind readers that his 
style was that of the age in which he lived, and 
that Camus was essentially a Parisian. We have 
said that he wrote at least fifty novels; we may add 
that each was cleverer than that which had preceded 
it. Forgotten now, they were at the time of their 
appearance eagerly devoured, and it is morally 
impossible but that some good should have resulted 
from their production. 

And now old age came upon the busy writer—old 
age, but not the feebleness of old age, nor its 
privileged inaction. As he advanced in years he 
seemed to increase in zeal and diligence, and it was 
not till suddenly stricken down by a mortal malady 
that his labours ceased. 

Then on his death-bed in a quiet corner of the 

20 The Bishop of Belley 

Hospital for Incurables in humility, patience, and 
a marvellous silence, only opening his lips to 
speak at the desire of his confessor, calm and 
peaceful, his eyes fixed upon the crucifix which he 
held in his hands, Jean Pierre Camus gave up his 
soul to God. This was on the 25th of April, 1652. 
He was 67 years old. 

He had in his will forbidden any pomp or display 
at his funeral, and his wishes were strictly obeyed. 

Some time after his death a stone was placed by 
the Administrators of the Hospital over the tomb 
of the good Bishop, who had been so great a bene- 
factor to that Institution, and who rests beneath 
the nave of its Church in the Rue de Sévres. 

When he felt the first approach of illness, about 
six weeks before his death, he made his will, in 
which he left the greater part of his money to the 
Hospital, founding in it four beds for the Incur- 
ables of Belley. 

And now our work is done. . . . The object has 
been to make John Peter Camus known as he really 
was, and to cleanse his memory from the stains cast 
upon it by the jarring passions of his contem- 

If we have succeeded in this the reader will 
recognise in him a pious Bishop, armed with the 
scourge of penance, an indefatigable writer in the 
defence of good morals, of religion, and of the 
Church—a reformer, and not an enemy of the 
Monastic Orders; finally a Prelate, who laboured 
all his life to copy the Holy Bishop of Geneva, 
whom he ever regarded as his father, his guide, 
and his oracle. 

One word more. Those pious persons who wish 
to know better this true disciple of the Bishop of 

The Bishop of Belley 21 

Geneva have nothing to do but to read the Spirit 
of Saint Francis de Sales. There they will see the 
Bishop of Belley as he really was. There they can 
admire his ardent piety, the candour of his soul, the 
fervour of his faith and charity; in a word, all 
that rich store of virtues which he acquired in the 
school of that great master of the spiritual life who 
was for fourteen years his Director. 

THE READER, 1639. 

Since the holy death of Blessed Francis de 
Sales, Prince and Bishop of Geneva, which took 
place on December 28th, the Feast of the Holy 
Innocents, in the year 1622, many writers have 
taken up the pen to give the public the knowledge 
of the pious life and virtuous conversation of that 
holy Prelate, whom some have very fitly called the 
St. Charles of France. 

The writer, however, with whom we are most 
concerned is Monseigneur Jean Pierre Camus, 
Bishop of Belley, whose work we are now intro- 
ducing to our readers. After the death of Blessed 
Francis this faithful friend and devoted disciple 
was entreated, urged, conjured, in season and out 
of season, by an infinity of persons, to employ 
the literary faculty given to him by God in com- 
municating to the world the many rare things 
which he had had the opportunity of observing in 
the life and conversation of Blessed Francis, under 
whose direction and discipline he had been for 
fourteen years. 

M. Camus constantly excused himself under the 
plea that many had already taken the work in hand, 
and that he did not care to put his sickle into 
another man’s crop, nor to make books by simply 
transcribing those of others, as is done by many 
writers of our day. At last, however, he allowed 
himself to be persuaded by some members of the 
Order of the Visitation, founded by the holy 
Bishop, to write the life, or, more properly 


The French Preface of 1639 23 

speaking, to delineate the spirit of his beloved 

Having promised to do this, he considered that 
he had, at least partially, fulfilled his promise by 
publishing some pious Treatises conformable to 
the spirit of the holy Prelate. It was, however, 
afterwards thought better to gather up, and, as it 
were, glean from M. Camus’ own sermons, ex- 
hortations, conferences, conversations, books, and 
letters, that Spirit of Blessed Francis which he had 
imbibed, in common with all the holy Bishop’s 
disciples and spiritual children. 

To make this collection was not difficult, because 
there was scarcely a sermon, conference, or 
Spiritual lesson given by him in which he did not 
say something about the Saint, so deeply imbued 
was he with his instructions. 

One of the most intimate and familiar friends of 
the Bishop of Belley, having given his attention 
to the matter, now lays before you as the result, 
this book to which he has given the title: The Spirit 
of Blessed Francis de Sales, represented in his 
most remarkable words and actions. This holy 
Bishop was mighty in works and in words; he was 
not one of those who say much that is good but 
who do not practise it. To sav and to do was with 
him the same thing, or rather, his doing surpassed 
his saying. .. . 

In this collection offered to you, there is but 
little formal arrangement, the component parts 
were gathered up as they fell from the lips or the 
pen of Monseigneur Camus. It is a piece of 
mosaic work, a bouquet of various flowers, a salad 
of divers herbs, a banquet of many dishes, an 
orchard of different fruits, where each one can 
take what best suits his taste. 

Note.—In this translation an endeavour has been 
made to group together the sections treating of the 
same subject. These are scattered, without order, 
through the three volumes of the French edition. 



Blessed Francis de Sales thought very little of 
any virtue unless it was animated by charity; 
following in this the teaching of St. Paul, who 
declares that without charity the greatest virtues are 
as nothing. Thus, even the faith which works 
miracles, the almsgiving which leads a man to sell 
all his goods to feed the poor, the spirit of martyr- 
dom which impels him to give his body to be 
burned, all, if without charity, are nothing.* 

That you may clearly understand the distinction 
which he drew between the natural excellence of 
certain virtues, and the supernatural perfection 
which they acquire by the infusion of charity, I 
will give you his exact words on the subject, as 
they are to be found in his Treatise on the Love of 

He says: ‘‘ The light of the sun falls equally on 
the violet and the rose, yet will never render the 
former as fair as the latter, or make a daisy as 
lovely as a lily. If, however, the sun should shine 
very clearly upon the violet, and very mistily and 
faintly upon the rose, then without doubt it would 
make the violet more fair to see than the rose. 

*1 Cor. xiii. 1—3. 


26 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

So, Theotimus, if with equal charity one should 
suffer death by martyrdom, and another suffer only 
hunger by fasting, who does not see that the value 
of this fasting will not, on that account, be equal 
to that of martyrdom? No, for who would dare 
to affirm that martrydom is not more excellent in 
itself than fasting. . . . Still, it is true that if love 
be ardent, powerful, and excellent, in a heart, it 
will also more enrich and perfect all the virtuous 
works which may proceed from it. One may suffer 
death and fire for God, without charity, as St. Paul 
supposes,* and as I explain elsewhere. Still more 
then may one suffer them with little charity. Now, 
I say, Theotimus, that it may come to pass that a 
very small virtue may be of greater value 
in a soul where divine love fervently reigns, than 
martyrdom itself in a soul where love is languish- 
ing, feeble, and dull. Thus, the least virtues of 
our Blessed Lady of St. John, and of other great 
Saints, were of more worth before God than the 
most exalted perfections of the rest of His 
servants.” t 


1°. He preferred those virtues the practice of 
which is comparatively frequent, common, and 
ordinary, to others which we may be called upon 
to exercise On rare occasions. 

2°. He considered, as we have seen, that the 
degree of the supernatural in any virtue could not 
be decided by the greatness or smallness of the 

*: Cor. xiii. 2 
t Bk. xi. chap. v. 

Blessed Francis Estimate of Various Virtues 27 

external act, since an act in itself altogether trivial, 
may be performed with much grace and charity, 
while a very brilliant and dazzling good work may 
be animated by but a very feeble spark of love 
of God, the intensity of which is, after all, the only 
rule by which to ascertain its true value in His 

3°. The more universal a virtue, the more, he 
said, it is to be preferred before all others, charity 
only excepted. For instance, he valued prayer as 
the light which illumines all other virtues; 
devotion, as consecrating all our actions to God; 
humility, which makes us set but little value on 
ourselves and on our doings; meekness, which 
yields to all; patience, which includes everything 
besides. He valued these, I say, more than 
magnanimity, or liberality, because such virtues 
can be more rarely practised and they affect fewer 

4°. He was always on his guard against showy 
virtues, which of their very nature encourage vain- 
glory, the bane of all good works. 

5°. He blamed those who measure virtues by the 
standard set up by the world, who prefer temporal 
to spiritual alms; haircloth, fasting, and corporal 
austerities to sweetness, modesty, and the mortifica- 
tion of the heart; virtues by far the more excellent. 

6°. He greatly condemned those who select the 
virtues most agreeable to their taste, and practise 
these alone, quite regardless of those which are 
specially adapted to their state of life. These 
people, indeed, serve God, but after a way of their 
own, not according to His will: a by no means 
uncommon mistake, which leads many, otherwise 
devout-minded, far out of the right path. 

28 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 


He had a special affection for certain virtues 
which are passed over by some as trivial and 
insignificant. ‘“‘ Everyone,” he used to say, ‘‘ is 
eager to possess those brilliant, almost dazzling 
virtues which cluster round the summit of the 
Cross, so that they can be seen from afar and 
admired, but very few are anxious to gather those 
which, like wild thyme, grow at the foot of that 
Tree of Life and under its shade. Yet these are 
often the most hardy, and give out the sweetest 
perfume, being watered with the precious Blood 
of the Saviour, whose first lesson to His disciples 
was: Learn of Me because I am meek and 
humble of heart.* 

It does not belong to every one to practise the 
sublime virtues of fortitude, magnanimity, endur- 
ance unto death, patience, constancy, and courage. 
The occasions of exercising these are rare, yet all 
aspire to them because they are brilliant and their 
names high sounding. Very often, too, people 
fancy that they are able, even now, to practise them. 
They inflate their courage with the vain opinion 
they have of themselves, but when put to the trial 
fail pitiably. They are like those children of 
Ephrem, who distinguished themselves wonder- 
fully by, in the time of peace, hitting the target 
with every arrow, but in the battle were the first 
to fly before the enemy. Better had their skill been 
less and their courage greater. 

Opportunities of acquiring offices, benefices, 
inheritances, large sums of money, are not to be 
met with every day, but at any moment we may 

*Matt. xi. 20. 

Upon the Lesser Virtues 29 

earn farthings and halfpence. By trading well on 
these small profits, many have in course of time 
grown rich. We should become spiritually wealthy 
and lay up for ourselves much treasure in Heaven 
did we employ in the service of the holy love of 
God, the small opportunities which are to be met 
with at every hour of our lives. 

It is not enough to practise great virtues; they 
must be practised with great charity, for that it is 
which in the sight of God forms the basis of and 
gives weight and value to all good works. An act 
of lesser virtue (for all virtues are not of equal 
importance) done out of great love to God is far 
more excellent than a rarer and grander one 
done with less love. 

‘* Look at this good soul, she gives a cup of cold 
water to the thirsty with such holy love that it is 
changed into the water of life, life eternal. The 
Gospel which makes light of the weightiest sums 
cast into the treasury, reckons of the highest value 
two mites offered out of a great and fervent love.’’* 

‘These little homely virtues! How seldom is 
mention made of them! How lightly they are 
esteemed! Kindly concessions to the exacting 
temper of our neighbour, gentle tolerance of his 
imperfections, loving endurance of cross looks, 
peevish gestures, cheerfulness under contempt and 
small injustices, endurance of affronts, patience 
with importunity, doing menial actions which our 
social position impels us to regard as beneath us; 
replying amiably to some one who has given us an 
undeserved and sharp reproof, falling down and 
then bearing good humouredly the being laughed 
at, accepting with gentleness the refusal of a kind- 

* Cf. Treatise on the Love of God. Bk. iii. c. ii. 

80 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

ness, receiving a favour graciously, humbling our- 
selves before our equals and inferiors, keeping on 
kindly and considerate terms with our servants. 
How trivial and poor all this appears to those who 
have their hearts lifted up with proud aspirations. 
We want, they seem to say, no virtues but such as 
go clad in purple, and to be borne by fair winds 
and spreading sails towards high reputation. They 
forget that those who please men are not the ser- 
vants of God, and that the friendship of the world 
and its applause are worth nothing and less than 
nothing in His sight.’’* 


Lord, I believe, help my unbelief! Lord, increase 
the Faith in us! And how is this increase of Faith 
to be brought about? In the same way, assuredly, 
as the strength of the palm tree grows with the 
load it has to bear, or as the vine profits by being 

A stoic philosopher remarked very truly that 
virtue languishes when it has nothing to overcome. 
What does a man know until he is tempted? 

Our Blessed Father! when visiting the bailiwick 
of Gex, which adjoins the city of Geneva, in order 
to re-establish the Catholic religion in some 
parishes, declared that his Faith gained new 
vigour through his intercourse with the heretics 
of those parts, who were sitting in darkness and 
in the shadow of death. 

* Cf. The Devout Life. Part iii. c. i., ii., and vi. 
1St. Francis de Sales was spoken of as Our Blessed 
Father, not only by the Visitation Nuns, but in the whole 
neighbourhood of Annecy. 

Upon Increase of Farth 31 

He expresses his feelings on this subject in one 
of his letters: ‘“ Alas! in this place I see poor 
wandering sheep all around me; I approach them 
and marvel at their evident and palpable blindness. 
O my God! the beauty of our holy Faith then 
appears by comparison so entrancing that I would 
die for love of it, and I feel that I ought to lock 
up the precious gift which God has given me in 
the innermost recesses of a heart all perfumed with 
devotion. My dearest daughter, I thank the 
sovereign Light which shed its rays so mercifully 
into this heart of mine, that the more I go among 
those who are deprived of Faith, the more clearly 
and vividly I see its magnificence and its inexpres- 
sible, yet most desirable, sweetness.’’* 

In order to make great progress in the spirit of 
Faith, which is that of Christian perfection, Blessed 
Francis was not satisfied with simple assent to all 
those truths which are divinely revealed, or with 
submission to the will of God as taught in them, 
he wanted more than this. It was his desire that 
we should be actuated in all our dealings by the 
spirit of Faith, as far at least as that is possible, 
so as to arrive at last at that summit of perfect 
charity which the Apostle calls the more excellent 
way, and of which he says that he who is joined 
to the Lord is one spirit. 


He who is not tempted what knows he? says 
Holy Scripture. God is faithful, and will not 
permit us to be tempted beyond our strength; nay, 
if we are faithful to Him, He enables us to profit 

*Cf. The Depositions of St. Chantal. Point 24th. 

32 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

by our tribulation. He not only helps us, but He 
makes us find our help in the tribulation itself, in 
which, thinking we were perishing, we cried out to 
Him to save us. 

Those who imagine themselves to be in danger 
of losing the Faith, when the temptations suggested 
to them by the enemy against this virtue, harass 
and distress them, understand very little of the 
nature of temptations. For, besides that tempta- 
tion cannot harm us, as long as it is displeasing to 
us, which is the teaching of one of the early Fathers, 
it actually, in such case, produces an absolutely 
contrary effect to what we fear, and to the aim of our 
adversary, the devil. For just as the palm tree 
takes deeper and stronger root, the more it is tossed 
and shaken by the winds and storms, so the more 
we are tossed by temptation, the more firmly are we 
settled in that virtue which the temptation was striv- 
ing to overthrow. 

As we see from the lives of the Saints, the most 
chaste are those who oppose the greatest resistance 
to the goad of sensuality, and the most patient are 
those who struggle the most earnestly against im- 
patience. It is for this reason that Holy Scripture 
says: Happy is he who suffers temptation, since, 
after his trial, the crown of life awaits him.* 

In this way the more violent are the temptations 
against Faith with which a soul is troubled, the 
more deeply does that virtue bury itself in the heart, 
and is there held all the more tightly and closely, 
because of our fear lest it escape. 

Blessed Francis provides us in one of his letters 
with three excellent means of resisting and over- 
coming temptations against Faith. The first, is to 

*¥James i. 12. 

Upon Temptations Against Faith 33 

despise all the suggestions of the Evil One. They 
are outside and before our heart rather than within 
it, for there peace maintains its hold, though in 
great bitterness. This so exasperates our proud 
enemy, who is king over all the children of pride, 
that, seeing himself disdained, he withdraws. 

The second is not to fight against this tempta- 
tion by contrary acts of the understanding, but by 
those of the will, darting forth a thousand protesta- 
tions of fidelity to the truths which God reveals to 
us by His Church. These acts of Faith, super- 
natural as they are, soon reduce to ashes all the 
engines and machinations of the enemy. 

Our Saint gives us his third means, the use of 
the discipline, saying that this bodily suffering 
Serves as a diversion to trouble of mind, and adds 
that the devil, seeing the flesh, which is his parti- 
san and confederate, thus maltreated, is terrified 
and flies away. This is to act like that King of 
Moab, who brought about the raising of the siege 
of his city, by sacrificing his son on the walls, in 
the sight of his enemies, so that, panic-stricken, 
with horror at a sight so appalling, they took at 
once to flight. 


When the tempter sees that our heart is so firmly 
established in grace that we flee from sin as from a 
serpent, and that its very shadow, which is tempta- 
tion, frightens us, he contents himself with dis- 
quieting us, seeing that he cannot make us yield to 
his will. 

In order to effect this, he stirs up a heap of 
trivial temptations, which he throws like dust into 


384 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

our eyes, so as to make us unhappy, and to render 
the path of virtue less pleasant to us. 

We must take up shield and sword to arm our- 
selves against great temptations; but there are 
many trivial and ordinary ones which are better 
driven away by contempt than by any other 

We arm ourselves against wolves and bears; but 
who would condescend to do so against the swarms 
of flies which torment us in hot weather? Our 
Blessed Father, writing to one who was sorrowful 
and disquieted at finding herself assailed by temp- 
tations against Faith, though these were most hate- 
ful and tormenting to her, expresses himself thus: 

‘“ Your temptations against Faith have come back 
again, even though you never troubled yourself to 
answer them. They importune you again, but still 
you do not answer. 

“ Well, my daughter, all this is as it should be: 
but you think too much about them; you fear them 
too much; you dread them too much. Were it not 
for that, they would do you no harm. You are too 
sensitive to temptations. You love the Faith, and 
would not willingly suffer a single thought con- 
trary to it to enter your mind; but the moment one 
so much as occurs to you you are saddened and 
troubled by it. 

“ You are too jealous of your purity of Faith. 
You fancy that everything that teuches it must 
taint it. 

“ No, my daughter, let the wind blow, and do 
not think that the rustling of the leaves is the clash 
of arms. A little while ago I was standing near 
some beehives, and some of the bees settled on my 
face. I wanted to brush them off with my hand. 

Upon Confidence in God 85 

‘No,’ said a peasant to me, ‘do not be afraid, and 
do not touch them, then they will not sting you at 
all; but if you touch them they will half devour 
you.’ I took his advice, and not one stung me. 

‘* Believe me, if you do not fear these tempta- 
tions, they will not harm you; pass on and pay no 
heed to them.’’ 


On this subject I must relate a charming little 
instance of our Blessed Father’s perfect confidence 
in God, of which he told me once with his accus- 
tomed simplicity, to the great consolation of my 
soul, and one which I was delighted afterwards to 
find related in a letter addressed to one of his most 
intimate friends. 

‘“ Yesterday,” he said, ‘‘ wishing to pay a visit 
to the Archbishop of Vienne, I went on the lake 
in a little boat, and felt very happy in the thought 
that my sole protection, besides a thin plank, was 
Divine Providence. The wind was high, and I 
was glad, too, to feel entirely under the command of 
the pilot, who made us all sit perfectly still; and, 
indeed, I had no wish to stir! Do not, however, 
my daughter, take these words of mine as proofs 
of my being very holy. No, they are only little 
imaginary virtues which I amuse myself by fancy- 
ing I possess. When it comes to real earnest, I am 
by no means so brave.” 

The simplicity of the Saint’s thoughts when on 
the water, and of his way of mentioning them, 
shows how childlike was his trust in God. It re- 
minds one of the happiness with which St. John 
leaned upon the Saviour’s breast. A saying, too, 

36 The Spirit of St. Francs De Sales 

of Saint Teresa which I have read in her life comes 
to my mind. She declared she was never more 
absolutely content than when she found herself in 
some peril which obliged her to have recourse to 
God; because then it seemed to her that she was 
clinging more closely to His holy presence, and 
saying to Him, as did Jacob to the Angel, that she 
would not let Him go until He had blessed her. 


To a soul overwhelmed by the consideration of 
its infidelities and miseries he wrote these words of 
marvellous consolation. 

‘“ Your miseries and infirmities ought not to 
astonish you. God has seen many and many a one 
as wretched as you, and His mercy never turns 
away the unhappy. On the contrary, by means of 
their wretchedness, He seeks to do them good, mak- 
ing their abjection the foundation of the throne of 
His glory. As Job’s patience was enthroned on a 
dung-hill, so God’s mercy is raised upon the 
wretchedness of man; take away man’s misery, and 
what becomes of God’s mercy ? ”’ 

Elsewhere he writes: ‘‘ What does our Lord love 
to do with His gift of eternal life, but to bestow it 
on souls that are poor, feeble, and of little account 
in their own eyes? Yes, indeed, dearly beloved 
children, we must hope, and that with great con- 
fidence, to live throughout a happy eternity. The 
greater our misery the greater should be our con- 
fidence.” These, indeed, are his very words in his 
second conference. 

Again in one of his letters he says: ‘* Why! 
What would this good and all-merciful God do with 

Upon Self-Distrust 37 

His mercy; this God, whom we ought so worthily 
to honour for His goodness? What, I say, would 
He do with it if He did not share it with us, miser- 
able as we are? If our wants and imperfections did 
not serve as a stage for the display of His graces 
and favours, what use would He make of this holy 
and infinite perfection ?”’ 

This is the lesson left us by our Blessed Father, 
and we ought, indeed, to hope with that lively hope 
animated by love, without which none can be saved. 
And this lively hope, what is it, but a firm and un- 
wavering confidence that we shall, through God’s 
grace and God’s mercy, attain to the joy of heaven, 
which, being infinite, is boundless and unmeasur- 


Distrust of self and confidence in God are the 
two mystic wings of the dove; that is to say, of the 
soul which, having learnt to be simple, takes its 
flight and rests in God, the great and sovereign 
object of its love, of its flight, and of its repose. 

The Spiritual Combat, which is an excellent 
epitome of the science of salvation and of heavenly 
teaching, makes these two things, distrust of selt 
and confidence in God, to be, as it were, the intro- 
duction to true wisdom: they are, the author tells 
us, the two feet on which we walk towards it, the 
two arms with which we embrace it, and the two 
eyes with which we perceive it. 

In proportion to the growth of one of these two 
in us is the increase of the other; the greater or the 
less the degree of our self-distrust, the greater or 
the less the degree of our confidence in God. 

38 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

But whence springs this salutary distrust of self? 
From the knowledge of our own misery and vile- 
ness, Of our weakness and impotence, of our malice 
and levity. And whence proceeds confidence in 
God? From the knowledge which faith gives us of 
His infinite goodness, and from our assurance that 
He is rich in mercy to all those who call upon 

If distrust and confidence seem incompatible with 
one another, listen to what our Blessed Father says 
on the subject: ‘‘ Not only can the soul which 
knows her misery have great confidence in God, 
but unless she has such knowledge, it is impossible 
for her to have true confidence in Him; for it is this 
very knowledge and confession of our misery which 
brings us to God. Thus, all the great Saints, Job, 
David, and the rest, began every prayer with the 
confession of their own misery, and unworthiness. 
It is a very good thing to acknowledge ourselves 
to be poor, vile, abject, and unworthy to appear in 
the presence of God. That saying so celebrated 
among the ancients: Know thyself, even though it 
may be understood as referring to the knowledge of 
the greatness and excellence of the soul, which ought 
not to be debased or profaned by things unworthy 
of its nobility, may also be taken as referring to the 
knowledge of our personal unworthiness, imperfec- 
tion, and misery. Now the greater our knowledge 
of our own misery the more profound will be our 
confidence in the goodness and mercy of God; for 
between mercy and misery there is so close a con- 
nection that the one cannot be exercised without the 
other. If God had not created man, He would still, 
indeed, have been perfect in goodness; but He 
would not have been actually merciful, since mercy 

Upon Self- Distrust 39 

can only be exercised towards the miserable. You 
see, then, that the more miserable we know our- 
selves to be the more occasion we have to confide 
in God, since we have nothing in ourselves in which 
we can trust.” 

He goes on to say: “‘ It is a very good thing to 
mistrust ourselves, but at the same time how will 
that avail us, unless we put our whole confidence in 
God, and wait for His mercy? It is right that our 
daily faults and infidelities should cause us self- 
reproach when we would appear before our Lord; 
and we read of great souls, like St. Catherine of 
Siena and St. Teresa, who, when they had been 
betrayed into some fault, were overwhelmed with 
confusion. Again, it is reasonable that, having 
offended God, we should out of humility and a feel- 
ing of confusion, hold ourselves a little in the back- 
ground. When we have offended even an earthly 
friend, we feel ashamed to meet him. Neverthe- 
less, it is quite certain that we must not remain for 
long at a distance, for the virtues of humility, ab- 
jection, and confusion are intermediate virtues, or 
steps by which the soul ascends to union with her 

It would be no great gain to accept our nothing- 
ness as a fact and to strip ourselves of self (which 
is done by acts of self-humiliation) if the result of 
this were not the total surrender of ourselves to 
God. St. Paul teaches us this, when he says: 
Strip yourselves of the old man and put on the 
new.” For we must not remain unclothed; but 
clothe ourselves with God.” 

Further on our Saint says: “‘ I ever say that the 
throne of God’s mercy is our misery, therefore the 

© Col. iii. 9. 

40 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

greater our misery the greater should be our con- 
fidence.’ * 

As regards the foundation of our confidence in 
God, he says in the same conference: ‘‘ You wish 
further to know what foundation our confidence 
ought to have. Know, then, that it must be 
grounded on the infinite goodness of God, and on 
the merits of the Death and Passion of our Lord 
Jesus Christ with this condition on our part that 
we should preserve and recognise in ourselves an 
entire and firm resolution to belong wholly to God, 
and to abandon ourselves in all things and without 
any reserve to His Providence.’’ 

He adds that, in order to belong wholly to God, 
it is not necessary to feel this resolution, because 
feeling resides chiefly in the lower faculties of the 
soul; but we must recognise it in the higher part 
of the soul, that purer and more serene region where 
even in spite of our feelings we fail not to serve God 
in spirit and in truth. 


You ask me a question which would be hard for 
me to answer had I not the mind of our Blessed 
Father to guide and assist me in the matter. 

You say: Whence comes it that Almighty God 
treated the rebel Angels with so much severity, 
showing them no mercy whatever, and providing 
for them no remedy to enable them to rise again 
after their fall; whereas to men He is so indulgent, 
patient towards their malice, waiting for them to 
repent, long suffering, and magnificent in His 
mercy, bestowing on them the copious Redemption 

of the Saviour ? 
* Conference ii. 

Upon the Justice and Mercy of God 41 

Well, He tells us in his Treatise on the Love of 
God* that: ‘‘ The angelic nature could only commit 
sin from positive malice, without temptation or 
motive to excuse, even partially. Nevertheless, the 
far greater part of the Angels remained constant 
in the service of their Saviour. Therefore God, 
who had so amply glorified His mercy in the work 
of the creation of the Angels, would also magnify 
His justice; and in His righteous indignation 
resolved for ever to abandon that accursed band of 
traitors, who in their rebellion had so villainously 
abandoned Him.” 

On man, however, He took pity for several 
reasons. First, because the tempter by his cun- 
ning had deceived our first father, Adam; secondly, 
because the spirit of man is encompassed by flesh 
and consequently by infirmity; thirdly, because his 
Spirit, enclosed as it is in an earthly body, is frail 
as the vessel which enshrines it, easily over- 
balanced by every breath of wind, and unable to 
right itself again; fourthly, because the temptation 
in the Garden of Eden was great and over-master- 
ing; fifthly, because He had compassion on the pos- 
terity of Adam, which otherwise would have 
perished with him; but the sixth, and principal 
cause was this: Almighty God having resolved to . 
take on Himself our human nature in order to unite 
it to the Divine Person of the Word, He willed to 
favour very specially this nature for the sake of 
that hypostatic union, which was to be the master- 
piece of all the communications of Almighty God 
to His creatures. 

Do not, however, imagine that God so willed to 
magnify His mercy in the redemption of man that 

*DeE. ii. ciy. 

42 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

He forgot the claims of His justice. No, truly; 
for no severity can equal that which He displayed 
in the sufferings of His Son, on whose sacred 
Head having laid the iniquities of us all, He poured 
out a vengeance commensurate with His Divine 

If, then, we weigh the severity displayed by God 
towards the rebel Angels against that with which 
He treated His Divine Son when redeeming man- 
kind, we shall find His justice more abundantly 
satisfied in the atonement made by the One than 
in the rigorous punishment of the others. In fine 
here, as always, His mercy overrides His judg- 
ments, inasmuch as the fallen Angels are punished 
far less than they deserve, and the faithful are re- 
warded far beyond their merits. 


On this subject of waiting upon God I remem- 
ber hearing from Blessed Francis two wonderful 
explanations. You, my dear sisters, will, I am sure, 
be glad to have them, and will find them of great 
use, seeing that your life, nailed as it is with Jesus 
Christ to the Cross, must be one of great long- 

He thus interpreted that verse of the Psalmist: 
With expectation have I waited on the Lord, and 
He was attentive to me.* 

‘* To wait, waiting,” he said, “‘ is not to fret our- 
selves while we are waiting. For there are some 
who in waiting do not wait, but are troubled and 

Those who have to wait soon get weary, and from 

*Psalm xxxix. I 

Waating upon God 43 

weariness springs that disturbance of mind so com- 
mon amongst them. Hence the inspired saying 
that Hope that is deferred afflicteth the soul.* Of 
all kinds of patience there is none more fitting to 
tedious waiting than longanimity. Strength is 
developed in dangers; patience drives away the 
sadness caused by suffering; constancy avails for 
the bearing of great evils; perseverance for the 
carrying out a good work to its completion; but 
longanimity has to do with sufferings which are 
painful because they are long enduring. 

Such pains are tedious, but not often violent, for 
violent sufferings are, asa rule, not lasting; either 
they pass away, or he on whom they are inflicted, 
being unable to bear them, is set free by death. To 
wait, indeed, for deliverance from evils quietly, but 
without any anguish or irritation, at least in the 
Superior part of the soul, is to wait, waiting. 
Happy are those who wait in this manner, for their 
hope shall not be confounded. Of them the 
Psalmist says that God will remember them, that 
He will grant their prayers, and that He will de- 
liver them from the pit of misery.+ Those who act 
otherwise, and who in their adversity give them- 
selves up to impatience, only aggravate their yoke, 
instead of lightening it. 

They are like the bird which beats its wings 
against the wrist or perch on which it is poised, but 
cannot get free from its chain. 

Wise Christians making a virtue of necessity and 
wishing what God wishes, make that which is neces- 
sary voluntary, and turn their suffering to their 
eternal advantage. 

2Psalm ĝiii. 12. {Psalm xxxix. 3. 

44 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 


I am asked if there is not something of a mer- 
cenary spirit in these words of our Blessed Father : 
‘“Oh, how greatly to be loved is the eternity of 
Heaven, and how contemptible are the fleeting 
moments of earth! Aspire continually to this eter- 
nity, and despise heartily this decaying world.” 

You will observe, if you please, that there is a 
great deal of difference between a proper desire of 
reward and a mercenary habit of mind. The 
proper desire of recompense is one which looks prin- 
cipally to the glory of God, and to that glory refers 
its own reward. A habit of mind which, according 
to the teaching of the Holy Council of Trent, is 
most excellent.* 

But a mercenary habit of mind is shown when 
we stop short voluntarily, deliberately, and mali- 
ciously at our own self-interest, neglecting and 
putting on one side the interests of God, and when 
we look forward only to the honours, satisfactions, 
and delights given to the faithful, and exclude, as 
it were, the tribute of glory and homage which they 
render for them to God. 

As regards these words of our Blessed Father’s, 
I am perfectly certain that, whatever they may at 
first sight seem to mean, they are assuredly the 
expression of thoughts, utterly unselfish, and 
totally devoid of the spirit of self-seeking. He had 
written just before: ‘‘ Take good heed not to come 
to the feast of the Holy Cross, which is a million 
times fuller of exquisite pleasures than any wedding 
feast, without having on the white robe, spotless, 

*De Justificat, cap. 12. 

Holy Desire of Reward, &c. 45 

and pure from all intentions save that of Beene 
the Lamb.” 

Again, I should like to read to you an extract 
from one of his letters, in which you will see that 
he knew how to distinguish, even in Paradise, our 
interests from those of God: So pure and pene- 
trating was his sight that it resembled that single 
eye of which the Gospel speaks,* which fills us with 
light and discernment in things spiritual and 
divine. He speaks thus in his letter: “‘ I have not 
been able to think of anything this morning save of 
the eternity of blessings which awaits us. And yet 
all appear to me as little or nothing beside that 
unchanging and ever-present love of the great God, 
which reigns continually in Heaven. For truly I 
think that the joys of Paradise would be possible, 
in the midst of all the pains of hell, if the love of 
God could be there. And if hell-fire were a fire of 
love, it seems to me that its torments would be the 
most desirable of good things. All the delights of 
Heaven are in my eyes a mere nothing compared 
with this triumphant love. Truly, we must either 
die or love God. I desire that my heart should 
either be torn from my body or that if it remains 
with me it should hold nothing but this holy love. 
Ah! We must truly give our hearts up to our im- 
mortal King, and thus being closely united to Him, 
live solely for Him. Let us die to ourselves and to 
all that depends on ourselves. It seems to me that 
we ought to live only for God. The very thought 
of this fills my heart once more with courage and 
fervour. Afterall, that our Lord is our Lord is the 
one thing in the world that really concerns us.”’ 

Again, in his Theotimus,f he says: 

* Maitt vi. 22. Tek. ži. 13. 

46 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

“ The supreme motive of our actions, which is 
that of heavenly love, has this sovereign property, 
that being most pure, it makes the actions which 
proceed from it most pure; so that the Angels and 
Saints of Heaven love absolutely nothing for any 
other end whatever than that of the love of the 
Divine goodness, and from the motive of desiring 
to please God. They all, indeed, love one another 
most ardently; they also love us, they love the vir- 
tues, but all this only to please God. They follow 
and practise virtues, not inasmuch as these virtues 
are fair and attractive to them; but inasmuch as they 
are agreeable to God. They love their own felicity, 
not because it is theirs, but because it pleases God. 
Yea, they love the very love with which they love 
God, not because it is in them, but because it tends 
to God; not because they have and possess it, but 
because God gives it to them, and takes His good 
pleasure in it.” 


There are some gloomy minds which imagine 
that when the motive of charity and disinterested 
love is insisted upon all other motives are thereby 
depreciated, and that it is wished to do away with 
them. But does he who praises one Saint blame 
the others? If we extol the Seraphim, do we on 
that account despise all the lower orders of Angels? 
Does the man who considers gold more precious 
than silver say that silver is nothing at all? Are 
we insulting the stars when we admire and praise 
the sun? And do we despise marriage because we 
put celibacy above it ? 

It is true that, as the Apostle says, charity is the 

Continuation of the Same Subject 47 

greatest of all virtues, without which the others 
have neither life nor soul; but that does not pre- 
vent these others from being virtues, and most 
desirable as good habits. In doing virtuous actions 
the motive of charity is, indeed, the king of all 
motives; but blessed also are all those inferior 
motives which are subject to it. We may truly say 
of them what the Queen of Sheba said of the cour- 
tiers of Solomon: Happy are thy men who always 
stand before thee and hear thy wisdom.* 

Nay, even servile and mercenary motives, 
although interested, may yet be good, provided 
they have nothing in them that cannot be referred to 
God. They are good in those who have not 
charity, preparing them for the reception of justify- 
ing grace. They are also good in the regenerate, 
and are compatible with charity, like servants and 
Slaves in the service and households of the great. 
For it is right, however regenerate we may be, to 
abstain from sin, not only for fear of displeasing 
God, but also for fear of losing our souls. The 
Council of Trent tells us that we are not doing ill 
when we perform good works primarily in order to 
glorify God; and also, as an accessory, with a view 
to the eternal reward which God promises to those 
who shall do such in His love and for His love. 
In great temptations, for fear of succumbing, the 
just may with advantage call to their aid the 
thought of hell, thereby to save themselves from 
eternal damnation and the loss of Paradise. But 
the first principles of the doctrine of salvation teach 
us that, to avoid evil and do good, simply from the 
motive of pure and disinterested love of God, is 
the most perfect and meritorious mode of action. 

2. Paral. ate az 

48 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

What! say some:—Must we cease to fear God 
and to hope in Him? What, then, becomes of acts 
of holy fear, and of the virtueof hope? If a mother 
were to abuse the doctor who had restored her child 
to life, would it not excite a strong suspicion that it 
was she herself who had attempted to smother it? 
Did not she who said to Solomon: Let it be 
divided,* show herself to be the false mother? 
They who are so much attached to servile fear can 
have no real desire to attain to that holy, pure, 
loving, reverent fear which leads to everlasting rest, 
and which the Saints and Angels practise through 
all eternity. 

Let us listen to what Blessed Francis further says 
on this subject. 

“ When we were little children, how eagerly and 
busily we used to collect tiny scraps of cloth, bits 
of wood, handfuls of clay, to build houses and make 
little boats! And if any one destroyed these won- 
derful erections, how unhappy we were; how bit- 
terly we cried! But now we smile when we think 
how trivial it all was. 

‘* Well,” he goes on to say, “‘ let us, since we are 
but children, be pardoned if we act as such; but, at 
the same time, do not let us grow cold and dull in 
our work. If any one knocks over our little houses, 
and spoils our small plans, do not let us now be 
unhappy or give way altogether on that account. 
The less so because when the evening comes, and 
we need a roof, I mean when death is at hand, these 
poor little buildings of ours will be quite unfit to 
shelter us. We must then be safely housed in our 
Father’s Mansion, which is the Kingdom of His 
well-beloved Son.”’ 

*1 Kings iii. 26. 

God should Suffice for us All 49 


A person of some consideration, and one who 
made much profession of living a devout life, was 
overtaken by sudden misfortune, which deprived 
her of almost all her wealth and left her plunged in 
grief. Her distress of mind was so inconsolable 
that it led her to complain of the Providence of God, 
who appeared, she said, to have forgotten her. 
All her faithful service and the purity of her life 
seemed to have been in vain. 

Blessed Francis, full of compassionate sympathy 
for her misfortunes, and anxious to turn her 
thoughts from the contemplation of herself and of 
earthly things, to fix them on God, asked her if He 
was not more to her than anything; nay, if, in fact, 
God was not Himself everything to her; and if, 
having loved Him when He had given her many 
things, she was not now ready to love Him, though 
she received nothing from Him. She, however, re- 
plying that such language was more speculative 
than practical, and easier to speak than to carry into 
effect, he wound up by saying, with St. Augustine: 
Too avaricious is that heart to which God does 
not suffice. ‘‘ Assuredly, he who is not satisfied 
with God is covetous indeed.” This word covetous 
produced a powerful effect upon the heart of one 
who, in the days of her prosperity, had always hated 
avarice, and had been most lavish in her expendi- 
ture, both on her own needs and pleasures and on 
works of mercy. It seemed as if suddenly the eyes 
of her soul were opened, and she saw how admir- 
able, how infinitely worthy of love God ever re- 
mained, whether with those things she had pos- 
sessed or without them. So, by degrees, she forgot 


50 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

herself and her crosses; grace prevailed, and she 
knew and confessed that God was all in all to her. 
Such efficacy have a Saint’s words, even if unpre- 


Blessed Francis, in speaking of perfection, often 
remarked that, although he heard very many people 
talking about it, he met with very few who prac- 
tised it. ‘‘ Many, indeed,” he would say, “‘ are so 
mistaken in their estimate of what perfection is, 
that they take effects for the cause, the rivulet for 
the spring, the branches for the root, the accesso- 
ries for the principle, and often even the shadow for 
the substance. 

For myself, I know of no Christian perfection 
other than to love God with our whole heart and 
our neighbour as ourselves. All other perfection is 
falsely so entitled: it is sham gold that does not 
stand testing. 

Charity is the only bond between Christians, the 
only virtue which unites us absolutely to God, and 
our neighbour. 

In charity lies the end of every perfection and 
the perfection of every end. I know that mortifica- 
tion, prayer, and the other exercises of virtue, are all 
means to perfection, provided that they are prac- 
tised in charity, and from the motive of charity. 
But we must never regard any of these means 
towards attaining perfection as being in them- 
selves perfection. This would be to stop short on 
the road, and in the middle of the race, instead of 
reaching the goal. 

The Apostle exhorts us, indeed, to run, but so as 

Charity the Short Road to Perfection 51 

to carry off the prize*, which is for those only who 
have breath enough to reach the end of the course. 

In a word, all our actions must be done in charity 
if we wish to walk in a manner, as says St. Paul, 
worthy of God; that is to say, to hasten on towards 

Charity is the way of true life; it is the truth of 
the living way; it is the life of the way of truth. 
All virtue is dead without it: it is the very life 
of virtue. No one can reach the last and supreme 
end, God Himself, without charity; it is the way to 
Him. There is no true virtue without charity, 
says St. Thomas; it is the very truth of virtue.” 

In conclusion, and in answer to my repeated 
question as to how we were to go to work in order 
to attain to this perfection, this supreme love of 
God and of our neighbour, our Blessed Father said 
that we must use exactly the same method as we 
should in mastering any ordinary art or accom- 
plishment. ‘‘ We learn,” he said, ‘‘to study by 
studying, to play on the lute by playing, to dance 
by dancing, to swim by swimming. So also we 
learn to love God and our neighbour by loving 
them, and those who attempt any other method are 

You ask me, my sisters, how we can discover 
whether or not we are making any progress towards 
perfection. I cannot do better than consult our 
oracle, Blessed Francis, and answer you in his 
own words, taken from his eighth Conference. 
‘“ We can never know what perfection we have 
reached, for we are like those who are at sea; they 
do not know whether they are making progress or 
not, but the pilot knows, knowing the course. So 

™rOor. i. g 

52 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

we cannot estimate our own advancement, though 
we may that of others, for we dare not assure our- 
selves when we have done a good action that we 
have done it perfectly—humility forbids us to do 
so. Nay, even were we able to judge of the virtues 
of others, we must never determine in our minds 
that one person is better than another, because 
appearances are deceitful, and those who seem very 
virtuous outwardly and in the eyes of creatures, 
may be less so in the sight of God than others who 
appear much more imperfect.’’ 

I have often heard him say that the multiplicity 
of means proposed for advancement towards perfec- 
tion frequently delays the progress of souls. They 
are like travellers uncertain of the way, and who 
seeing many roads branching off in different direc- 
tions stay and waste their time by enquiring here 
and there which of them they ought to take in 
order to reach their journey’s end. He advised 
people to confine themselves rather to some special 
Spiritual exercise or virtue, or to some well-chosen 
book of piety—for example, to the exercise of the 
presence of God, or of submission to His will, or 
to purity of intention, or some similar exercise. 

Among books, he recommended chiefly, Tne 
Spiritual Combat, The Imitation of Jesus Christ, 
The Method of Serving God, Grenada, Blosius, and 
such like. Among the virtues, as you know well, 
his favourites were gentleness and humiljty, charity 
—without which others are of no value—being 
always pre-supposed. 

On this subject of advancement towards perfec- 
tion, he speaks thus in the ninth of his Conferences: 

‘‘ Tf you ask me, ‘ What can I do to acquire the 
love of God?’ I answer, Will; i.e., try to love 

Charity the Short Road to Perfection 53 

Him; and instead of setting to work to find out how 
you can unite your soul to God, put the thing in 
practice by a frequent application of your mind to 
Him. Iassure you that you will arrive much more 
quickly at your end by this means than in any other 

For the more we pour ourselves out the less 
recollected we shall be, and the less capable of union 
with the Divine Majesty, who would have all we 
are without reserve.”’ 

He continues: ‘‘ One actually finds souls who are 
so busy in thinking how they shall do a thing that 
they have no time to do it. And yet, in what con- 
cerns our perfection, which consists in the union 
of our soul with the Divine Goodness, there is no 
question of knowing much; but only of doing.” 

Again, in the same Conference, he says: “‘ It 
seems to me that those of whom we ask the road 
to Heaven are very right in answering us as those 
do who tell us that, in order to reach such a place, 
we must just go on putting one foot before the 
other, and that by this means we shall arrive where 
we desire. Walk ever, we say to thcse souls so 
desirous of their perfection, walk in the way of your 
vocation with simplicity, more intent on doing than 
on desiring. That isthe shortest road.” ‘* And,” 
he adds, ‘‘in aspiring to union with the Beloved, 
there is no other secret than to do what we aspire 
to—that is, to labour faithfully in the exercise of 
Divine love.” 


In connection with this subject of the love of God 
and of our neighbour, I asked our Blessed Father 

54 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

what loving in this sense of the word really was. 
He replied: ‘‘ Love is the primary passion of our 
emotional desires, and a primary element in that 
emotional faculty which is the will. So that to will 
is nothing more than to love what is good, and love 
is the willing or desiring what is good. If we 
desire good for ourselves we have what is called self- 
love ; if we desire good for another we have the love 
of friendship.” 

To love God and our neighbour, then, with the 
love of charity, which is the love of friendship, is 
to desire good to God for Himself, and to our 
neighbour in God and for the love of God. We 
can desire two sorts of good for God: that which He 
has, rejoicing that He is what He is, and that 
nothing can be added to the greatness and to the 
infinity of His inward perfection; and that which 
He has not, by wishing it for Him, either effec- 
tively, if it is in our power to give it to Him, or by 
loving and longing, if it is not in our power to give 
it. For, indeed, there isa good which God desires 
and which is not His as it should be in perfection. 
That external good, as it is called, is the good which 
proceeds from the honour and glory rendered to 
Him by His creatures, especially by those among 
them endowed with reason. This isthe good which 
David wishes to God in so many of his Psalms. 
Among others, in the Praise ye the Lord from the 
heavens,* and in the Bless the Lord, O my soul.t 

The three children also in the fiery furnace wish 
this good to God by their canticle: All ye works of 
the Lord, bless the Lord.} 

If we truly love God we shall try to bring this 
good to Him through ourselves, surrendering our 

“Psalm cxivin. 1 8d. ciii. 1. Dan. Hi 57. 

Upon the Love of God in General 55 

whole being to Him, and doing all our actions, 
the indifferent as well as the good, for His glory. 

Not content with that, we shall also strive with 
all our might to make our neighbour serve and love 
God, so that by all and in all things God may be 

To love our neighbour in God is to rejoice in the 
good which our neighbour possesses, provided, 
indeed, that he makes use of it for the divine glory ; 
to render him in his need all the assistance which 
lies within our power; to be zealous for the welfare 
of his soul, and to work for it as we do for our own, 
because God wills and desires it. That is to have 
true and unfeigned charity, and to love God sin- 
cerely and steadfastly for His own sake and our 
neighbour for the love of Him. 


A whole mountain of virtues, if destitute of this 
living, reigning, and triumphant love, was to 
Blessed Francis but as a petty heap of stones. He 
was never weary of inculcating love of God as the 
supreme motive of every action. 

The whole of his Theotimus (The Treatise on the 
Love of God) breathes this sentiment, and he often 
told me that it was impossible to insist upon it too 
strongly in our teaching and advice to our people. 
“ For, in fact,” he used to say, ‘‘ what is the use of 
running a race if we do not reach the goal, or of 
drawing the bow if we do not hit the target? Oh! 
how many good works are useless as regards the 
glory of God and the salvation of souls, for want 
of this motive of charity! And yet, this is the last 
thing people think of, as if the intention were not 

56 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

the very soul of a good action, and as if God had 
ever promised to reward works not done for His 
glory, and not applied to His honour. 


You know very well how Blessed Francis valued 
charity, but I will give you, nevertheless, some 
more of his teaching on this great subject. 

To a holy soul who had placed herself under his 
direction, he said: ‘‘ We must do all things from 
love, and nothing from constraint. We must love 
obedience rather than fear disobedience. I leave 
you the spirit of liberty: not such as excludes 
Obedience, for that is the liberty of the flesh, but 
such as excludes constraint, scruples, and over- 
eagerness. However much you may love obedi- 
ence and submission, I wish you to suspend for the 
moment the work in which obedience has engaged 
you whenever any just or charitable occasion for 
so doing occurs. This omission will be a species 
of obedience. Fill up its measure by charity.” 

From this spirit of holy and christian liberty 
originated the saying so often to be met with in his 
letters: ‘‘ Keep your heart in peace.’’ That is to 
say: Beware of hurry, anxiety, and bitterness of 
heart. These he called the ruin of devotion. He 
was even unwilling that people should meditate 
upon the great truths of Death, Judgment and Hell, 
unless they at the same time reassured themselves 
by the remembrance of God’s love for them. Speak- 
ing toa holy soul, he says: *‘ Meditation on the four 
last things will be useful to you provided that you 
always end with an act of confidence in God. 
Never represent to yourself Death or Hell on the 

All for Love of God 57 

one side unless the Cross is on the other; so that 
when your fears have been excited by the one you 
may with confidence turn for help to the other.” 
The one point on which he chiefly insisted was that 
we must fear God from love, not love God from 
fear. ‘‘ To love Him from fear,” he used to say, 
‘is to put gall into our food and to quench our 
thirst with vinegar; but to fear Him from love is to 
sweeten aloes and wormwoaod.”’ 

Assuredly, our own experience convinces us that 
it is difficult to love those whom we fear, and that 
it is impossible not to fear with a filial and reverent 
fear those whom we love. 

You find some difficulty, it seems, my sisters, in 
understanding how all things, as St. Paul says,” 
whether good, bad, or indifferent, can in the end 
work together for good to those who love God. 

To satisfy you, I quote the words of Blessed 
Francis on this subject in one of his letters. 
“ Since,” he says, ‘God can bring good out of 
evil, will He not surely do so for those who have 
given themselves unreservedly to Him? Yes; 
even sins, from which may God in His goodness 
keep us, are by His Divine Providence, when we 
repent of them, changed into good for those who 
are His. Never would David have been so bowed 
down with humility if he had not sinned, nor would 
Magdalene have loved her Saviour so fervently had 
He not forgiven her so many sins. But He could 
not have forgiven them had she not committed 

Again :‘“‘ Consider, my dear daughter, this great 
Artificer of mercy, who changes our miseries into 
graces, and out of the poison of our iniquities com- 

*Rom. viil. 28. 

58 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

pounds a wholesome medicine for our souls. Tell 
me, then, I beseech you, if God works such won- 
ders with our sins, what will He not effect with our 
afflictions, with our labours, with the persecutions 
which we have to endure? No matter what trouble 
befalls you, nor from what direction it may come, 
let your soul be at peace, certain that if you truly 
love God all will turn to good. And though you 
cannot see the springs which work this marvellous 
change, rest assured that it will take place. 

If the hand of God touches your eyes with the 
clay of shame and reproach, it is only to give you 
clearer sight, and to cause you to be honoured. 

If He should cast you to the ground, as He did 
St. Paul, it will only be to raise you up again to 


“ All by love, nothing by constraint.” This was 
his favourite motto, and the mainspring of his 
direction of others. He has often said to me that 
those who try to force the human will are exercis- 
ing a tyranny which is hateful to God and man. 
This was why he had such a horror of those master- 
ful and dominant spirits which insist on being 
obeyed, bon gré mal gré, and would have every one 
give way to them. ‘‘ Those,’’ he often said, ‘‘ who 
love to make themselves feared, fear to make them- 
selves loved; and they themselves are more fearful 
than anyone else: for others only fear them, but 
they are afraid of every one.” 

I have often heard him say these striking words: 
“In the royal galley of divine love there is no 
galley-slave; all the oarsmen are volunteers.” 

* Rom. viii. 28. 

The Same Subiect Continued 59 

And he expresses the same sentiment in Theotimus, 
when he says: ‘* Divine love governs the soul with 
an incomparable sweetness; for no one of the slaves 
of love is made such by force, but love brings all 
things under its rule, with a constraint so delight- 
ful, that as nothing is so strong as love, nothing 
also is so sweet as its strength.’’* And in another 
part of the same book he makes a soul, attracted 
by the delicious perfume shed by the divine Bride- 
groom on his path, say: 

‘““ Let no one think that Thou draggest me after 
Thee like an unwilling slave ora lifeless load. Ah! 
no. Thou drawest me by the odour of Thine oint- 
ments; though I follow Thee, it is not that Thou 
draggest me, but that Thou enticest me. Thy 
drawing is mighty, but not violent, since its whole 
force lies in its sweetness. Perfumes draw me to 
follow them in virtue only of their sweetness. And 
Sweetness, how can it attract but sweetly and plea- 
santly?’’t Following out this principle, he never 
gave a command even to those who were bound to 
obey him, whether his servants or his clergy, save 
in the form of a request or suggestion. He held in 
special veneration, and often inculcated upon me the 
command of St. Peter: Feed the flock of God 
which is among you, not by constraint, but 
willingly, not for filthy lucre’s sake, neither as lord- 
ing it over the clergy, but being made a pattern of 
virtue to the flock.* 

And here, my sisters, I feel that it will be for 
your profit, although the story is not to my own 
credit, to relate a circumstance which occurred in 
the early years of my episcopate. I was young, 

* Book 1.6. +t Book ii. 13. 
tı Peter v. 2, 3. 

60 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

impetuous, and impatient; eager to reform the 
abuses and disorders which from time to time I met 
with in my pastoral visitations. Often, too, I 
know, I was bitter and harsh when discouraged. 

Once in a despairing mood because of the many 
failures I noticed in myself, and others, I poured 
forth my lamentations and self-accusations to our 
Blessed Father, who said: ‘‘ What a masterful 
spirit you have! You want to walk upon the wings 
of the wind. You let yourself be carried away by 
your zeal, which, like a will-of-the-wisp, will 
surely lead you over a precipice. Have you for- 
gotten the warning of your patron, St. Peter, not 
to think you can walk in burning heat?* Would 
you do more than God, and restrain the liberty of 
the creatures whom God has made free? You de- 
cide matters, as if the wills of your subjects were 
allin yourown hands. God, Who holds all hearts 
in His and Who searches the reins and the 
hearts, does not act thus. He puts up with resis- 
tance, rebellion against His light, kicking against 
the goad, opposition to His inspirations, even 
though His Spirit be grieved thereby. He does, 
indeed, suffer those to perish who through the hard- 
ness of their impenitent hearts have heaped to them- 
selves wrath in the day of vengeance. Yet He 
never wearies of calling them to Him, however often 
they reject His offers and say to Him, Depart from 
us, we will not follow Thy ways.t 

“In this our Angel Guardians follow His ex- 
ample, and although we may forsake God by our 
iniquities, they will not forsake us as long as there 
is breath in our body, even though we may have 

*, Peter iv. 12. tJob xxi. 14. 

Upon the Love of God, ke. 61 

fallen into sin. Do you want better examples for 
regulating your conduct?” 


You ask me what I have to say as regards the 
love of benevolence towards God. What good 
thing can we possibly wish for God which He has 
not already, What can we desire for Him which 
He does not possess far more fully than we can 
desire Him to have it? 

What good can we do to Him to Whom all our 
goods belong, and Who has all good in Himself; 
or, rather, Who is Himself all good? 

I reply to this question as I have done to others, 
that there are many spiritual persons, and some 
even of the most gifted, who are greatly mistaken 
in their view of this matter. 

We must distinguish in God two sorts of good, 
the one interior, the other exterior. The first is 
Himself; for His goodness, like His other attri- 
butes, is one and the same thing with His essence 
or being. 

Now this good, being infinite, can neither be 
augmented by our serving God and by our honour- 
ing Him, nor can it be diminished by our rebelling 
against Him and by our working against Him. 

It is of it that the Psalmist speaks when he says 
that our goods are nothing unto Him. 

But there is another kind of good which is exte- 
rior; and this, though it belongs to God, is not in 
Him, but in His creatures, just as the moneys of 
the king are, indeed, his, but they are in the coffers 
of his treasurers and officials. 

62 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

This exterior good consists in the honours, 
obedience, service, and homage which His creatures 
owe and render to Him: creatures of whom each one 
has of necessity His glory as the final end and aim 
of its creation, And this good it is which we can, 
with the grace of God, desire for Him, and ourselves 
give to Him, and which we can either by our 
good works increase or by our sins take from. 

In regard to this exterior good, we can practise 
towards God the love of benevolence by doing all 
things, and all good works in our power, in order 
to increase His honour, or by having the intention 
to bless, glorify, and exalt Him in all our actions; 
and much more by refraining from any action 
which might tarnish God’s glory and displease 
Him, Whose will is our inviolable law. 

The love of benevolence towards God does not 
stop here. For, because charity obliges us to love 
our neighbour as ourselves from love of God, we 
try to urge on our fellow-men to promote this 
Divine glory, each one as far as he can. We in- 
cite them to do all sorts of good, so as thereby to 
magnify God the more. Thus the Psalmist said to 
his brethren, O magnify the Lord with me, and let 
us extol His name together.* 

This same ardour incites and presses us also 
(urget is the word used by St. Paul) to do our 
utmost to aid our neighbour to rise from sin, which 
renders him displeasing to God, and to prevent sin 
by which the Divine Goodness is offended. This 
is what is properly called zeal, the zeal which con- 
sumed the Psalmist when he saw how the wicked 
forget God, and which caused him to cry out: 
My zeal has made me pine away, because my 

*Psalm xxxiii. 4. 

Upon the Love of God, ke. 63 

enemies forgot thy words.* And again, The zeal 
of thy house hath eaten me up.t 

You ask if this love of benevolence might not 
also be exercised towards God in respect of that 
interior and infinite good which He possesses and 
which is Himself. I reply, with our Blessed 
Father in his Theotimus, that we can wish Him 
to have this good, by rejoicing in the fact that He 
has it, and that He is what He is; hence that vehe- 
ment outburst of David, Know ye, that the 
Lord heis Godt And again, A great King above 
all gods. 

Moreover, the mystical elevations and the ecsta- 
sies of the Saints were acts of the love of God in 
which they wished Him all good and rejoiced in 
His possessing it. Our imagination, too, may 
help us, as it did St. Augustine, of whom our 
Blessed Father writes: 

“ This desire, then, of God, by imagination of 
impossibilities, may be sometimes profitably prac- 
tised in moments of great and extraordinary feel- 
ings and fervours. We are told that the great St. 
Augustine often made such acts, pouring out in an 
excess of love these words: ‘ Ah! Lord, I am 
Augustine, and Thou art God; but still, if that 
which neither is nor can be were, that I were God, 
and thou Augustine, I would, changing my con- 
dition with Thee, become Augustine to the end 
that Thou mightest be God.’’§ 

We can again wish Him the same good by re- 
joicing in the knowledge that we could never, even 
by desiring it, add anything to the incomprehen- 

*Psalm cxvill. 139. tPsalm lxviii. to. {Psalm xciv. 3. 
§Book v. c. 6. 

64 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

sible infinity and infinite incomprehensibility of His 
greatness and perfection. Holy, holy, holy, Lord 
God of Hosts. Heaven and earth are full of Thy 
glory: Praise to God in the highest. Amen. 


You know that among the Saints for whom our 
Blessed Father had a special devotion, St. Louis of 
France held a very prominent position. 

Now, in the life of the holy King, written by 
the Sieur de Joinville, there is a little story which 
our Blessed Father used to say contained the sum- 
mary of all Christian perfection; and, indeed, its 
beauty and excellence have made it so well known 
that we find it told or alluded to in most books of 

It is that of the holy woman—whose name, 
though written in the Book of Life, is not recorded 
in history—who presented herself to Brother Yves, 
a Breton, of the Order of St. Dominic, whom King 
Louis, being in the Holy Land, had sent as an 
ambassador to the Caliph of Syria. She was hold- 
ing in one hand a lighted torch, and in the other 
a pitcher of water filled to the brim. 

Addressing the good Dominican, she told him 
that her intention was to burn up Paradise with the 
one and to put out the fire of Hell with the other, 
in order that henceforth God might be served with 
a holy and unfeigned charity. That is to say, with 
a true and disinterested love, for love of Himself 
alone, not from a servile and mercenary spirit; 
i.e., from fear of punishment or hope of reward. 

Our Blessed Father told me that he should have 
liked this story to be told on all possible occasions, 

Upon the Character of a True Christian 65 

and to have had engravings of the subject for dis- 
tribution, so that by so beautiful an example many 
might be taught to love and serve God with true 
charity, and to have no other end in view than His 
Divine glory; for true charity seeks not her own 
advantage, but only the honour of her Beloved. 


A Salamander, according to the fable, is a crea- 
ture hatched in the chilling waters of Arctic 
regions, and is consequently by nature so cold that 
it delights in the burning heat of a furnace. Fire, 
said the ancients, cannot consume it nor even 
scorch it. 

“ Just so is it with the christian,” said Blessed 
Francis. ‘‘ He is born in a region far away from 
God, and is altogether alien from Him. He is con- 
ceived in iniquity and brought forth in sin, and sin 
is far removed from the way of salvation. Man 
is condemned before his very birth. Damnatus 
antequam natus, says St. Bernard. He is born in 
the darkness of original sin and in the region of 
the shadow of death. But, being born again in the 
waters of Baptism, in which he is clothed with the 
habit of charity, the fire of the holy love of God 
is enkindled in him. Henceforth his real life, the 
life of grace and of spiritual growth, depends abso- 
lutely upon his abiding in that love; for he who 
loves not thus is dead; while, on the other hand, by 
this love man is called back from death to life.” 

“ Charity,” he continued, “‘is like a fire and a 
devouring flame. The little charity which we pos- 
sess in this life is liable to be extinguished by the 
violent temptations which urge us, or, to speak 


66 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

more truly, precipitate us into mortal sin; but that 
of the life to come is a flame all-embracing and all- 
conquering—it can neither fail nor flicker. 

On earth charity, like fire, needs fuel to nourish 
it and keep it alive; but in its proper sphere, which 
is Heaven, it feeds upon its own inherent heat, nor 
needs other nourishment. It is of vital importance 
here below to feed our charity with the fuel of good 
works, for charity is a habit so disposed to action 
that it unceasingly urges on those in whom the 
Holy Spirit has shed it abroad to perform such 
works. This the Apostle expresses very aptly: 
The charity of Christ presseth us.* 

St. Gregory adds that the proof of true, un- 
feigned love is action, the doing of works seen and 
known to be good. For, if faith is manifested by 
good works, how much more charity, which is the 
root, the foundation, the soul, the life, and the form 
of every good and perfect work.” 


Blessed Francis used to say that those who nar- 
row their charity, limiting it to the performance of 
certain duties and offices, beyond which they would 
not take a single step, are base and cowardly souls, 
who seem as though they wished to enclose in their 
own hands the mighty Spirit of God. Seeing that 
God is greater than our heart, what folly it is to 
try to shut Him up within so small a circle. 

On this subject of the immeasurable greatness of 
the love which we should bear to God, he uttered 
these remarkable words: ‘‘ To remain long in a 

*2 Cor. v. 14. 

Upon the Law and the Just Man 67 

settled, unchanging condition is impossible: in this 
traffic he who does not gain, loses; he who does not 
mount this ladder, steps down; he who is not con- 
queror in this combat, is vanquished. We live in 
the midst of battles in which our enemies are 
always engaging us. If we do not fight we perish; 
but we cannot fight without overcoming, nor over- 
come without victory, followed by a triumph and a 


You ask me the meaning of the Apostle’s saying 
that the law is not made for the just man.* Can 
any man be just unless he accommodate his actions 
to the rule of the law? Is it not in the observance 
of the law that true justice consists? 

Our Blessed Father explains this passage so 
clearly and delicately in his Theotimus that I will 
quote his words for you. He says: “‘ In truth the 
just man is not just, save inasmuch as he has love. 
And if he have love, there is no need to threaten 
nim by the rigour of the law, love being the most 
insistent of all teachers, and ever urging the heart 
which it possesses to obey the will and the intention 
of the beloved. Love is a magistrate who exercises 
his authority without noise and without police. 
Its instrument is mutual complacency, by which, 
as we find pleasure in God, so also we desire to 
please Him.’’t 

Permit me to add to these excellent words a re- 
minder which ought not, I think, to be unprofitable 
to you. Some imagine that it is enough to observe 
the law of God in order to save our souls, obeying 

*] Tim. i. 9. +tBook viii. c. 1. 

68 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

the command of our Lord: Do this, that is to say, 
the law, and you shall live,* without attempting to 
determine the motive which impels them to observe 
the law. 

Now the truth is that some observe the law of 
God from a servile spirit, and only for fear of losing 
their souls. Others chiefly from a mercenary spirit 
for the sake of the reward promised to those who 
keep it, and, as our Blessed Father says very hap- 
pily: “ Many keep the Commandments as medi- 
cines are taken, rather that they may escape eternal 
death than that they may live so as to please our 
Saviour.” One of his favourite sayings was: “It 
is better to fear God from love than to love Him 
from fear.” 

He says also: ‘‘ There are people who, however 
pleasant a medicament may be, feel a repugnance 
when required to take it, simply from the fact ,of its 
being medicine. Soalso there are souls which con- 
ceive an absolute antipathy to anything they are 
commanded to do, only because they are so com- 
manded.’’ As soon, however, as the love of God 
is shed forth in the heart by the Holy Spirit, then 
the burden of the law becomes sweet, and its yoke 
light, because of the extreme desire of that heart 
to please God by the observance of His precepts. 
‘There is no labour,” he goes on to say, ‘* where 
love is, or if there be any, it is a labour of love. 
Labour mingled with love is a certain bitter-sweet, 
more pleasant to the palate than that which is 
merely sweet. Thus then does heavenly love con- 
form us to the will of God and make us carefully 
observe His commandments, this being the will of 
His Divine Majesty, Whom we desire to please. 

*Luke x. 28. 

Upon Desires 69 

So that this complacency with its sweet and amiable 
violence anticipates the necessity of obeying which 
the law imposes upon us, converting that necessity 
into the virtue of love, and every difficulty into de- 
ight.” * 


To desire to love God is to love to desire God, 
and consequently to love Him: for love is the root 
of all desires. 

St. Paul says: The charity of God presses us.t 
And how does it press us if not by urging us to 
desire God. This longing for God is as a spur to 
the heart, causing it to leap forward on its way to 
God. The desire of glory incites the soldier to run 
all risks, and he desires glory because he loves it for 
its own sake, and deems it a blessing more precious 
than life itself. 

A sick man has not always an appetite for food, 
however much he may wish for it as a sign of re- 
turning health. Nor can he by wishing for it 
obtain it, because the animal powers of our nature 
do not always obey the rational faculties. 

Love and desire, however, being the offspring of 
one and the same faculty, whoever desires, loves, 
and whoever desires from the motive of charity is 
able to love from the same motive. But how, you 
ask, shall we know whether or not we have this true 
desire for the love of God, and having it, whether 
it proceeds from the motions of grace or from 
nature ? 

It is rather difficult, my dear sisters, to give 
reasons for principles which are themselves their 

*Cf. Treatise on the Love of God. Book viii. c. 5. 
T2 Cor.: rg 

70 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

own reason. If you ask me why the fire is hot you 
must not take it amiss if I simply answer because 
it is not cold. 

But you wish to know what we have to do in 
order to obtain this most desirable desire to love 
God. Our Blessed Father tells us that we must 
renounce all useless, or less necessary desires, be- 
cause the soul wastes her power when she spreads 
herself out in over many desires, like the river 
which when divided by the army of a Persian King 
into many channels lost itself altogether. ‘* This,” 
he said, “‘is why the Saints used to retire into 
solitary places, so that being freed from earthly 
cares they might with more fervour give themselves 
up wholly and entirely to divine love. This is 
why the spouse in the Canticles is represented with 
one eye closed, and all the power of vision concen- 
trated in the other, thus enabling her to gaze more 
intently into the very depths of the heart of her 
Beloved, piercing it with love. 

This 1s why she even winds all her tresses into 
one single braid, using it as a chain to bind and 
hold captive the heart of her Bridegroom, making 
Him her slave by love! Souls which sincerely de- 
sire to love God, close their understanding to all 
worldly things, so as to employ it the more fully 
in meditating upon things Divine. 

All the aspirations of our nature have to be 
summed up in the one single intention of loving 
God, and Him alone: for to desire anything other- 
wise than for God is to desire God the less.’’* 


Not only did Blessed Francis consider it intoler- 
*Cf. Treatise on the Love of God. Book xii. 3. 

How Charity Excels both Faith and Hope 71 

able that moral virtues should be held to be com- 
parable to Charity, but he was even unwilling that 
Faith and Hope, excellent, supernatural, and 
divinely infused though they be, should be reckoned 
to be of value without Charity, or even when com- 
pared with it. In this he only echoed the thought 
and words of the great Apostle St. Paul, who in his 
first Epistle to the Corinthians writes: Faith, Hope, 
and Charity are three precious gifts, but the 
greatest of these 1s Charity. 

Faith, it is true, is love, ‘‘a love of the mind 
for the beautiful in the divine Mysteries,’’ as our 
Blessed Father says in his Treatise on the Love of 
God,* but ‘‘ the motions of love which forerun the 
act of faith required from our justification are either 
not love properly speaking, or but a beginning 
and imperfect love,” which inclines the soul to 
acquiesce in the truths proposed for its acceptance. 

Hope, too, is love, “‘a love for the useful in 
the goods which are promised in the other life.’’+ 
‘It goes, indeed, to God but it returns to us; its 
sight is turned upon the divine goodness, yet with 
some resject to our own profit.” 

‘In Hope love is imperfect because it does 
not tend to God’s infinite goodness as being such 
in itself, but only because it is so to us. . . . In real 
truth no one is able by virtue of this love either 
to keep God’s commandments or obtain life ever- 
lasting, because it is a love that yields more affec- 
tion than effect when it is not accompanied by 
Charity.” | 

But the perfect love of God, which is only to 
be found in Charity, is a disinterested love, which 
loves the sovereign goodness of God in Himself 

*Book ii. 13. tBook i. c. 5. {Book ii. 17. 

72 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

and for His sake only, without any aim except that 
He may be that which He is, eternally loved, 
glorified, and adored, because He deserves to be so, 
as St. Thomas says. And it is in the fact that it 
attains more perfectly its final end that its pre- 
eminence consists. This is very clearly shown by 
Blessed Francis in the same Treatise where he tells 
us that Eternal life or Salvation is shown to 
Faith, and is prepared for Hope, but is given only 
to Charity. Faith points out the way to the land 
of promise as a pillar of cloud and of fire, that is, 
light and dark; Hope feeds us with its manna 
of sweetness, but Charity actually introduces us 
into it, like the Ark of the Covenant, which leads 
us dry-shod through the Jordan, that is, through 
the judgment, and which shall remain amidst the 
people in the heavenly land promised to the true 
Israelites, where neither the pillar of Faith serves 
as a guide, nor the manna of Hope is needed as 

That which an ancient writer said of poverty, 
that it was a great good, yet very little known as 
such, can be said with far more reason of Charity. 
It is a hidden treasure, a pearl shut up in its shell, 
and of which few know the value. The heretics of 
the present day profess themselves content with 
a dead Faith, to which they attribute all their 
justice and their salvation. There are also 
catholics who appear to limit themselves to that 
interested love which is in Hope, and who serve 
God as mercenaries, more for their own interest 
than for His. There are few who love God as 
He ought to be loved, that is to say, with the 
disinterested love of Charity. Yet, without this 

* Book i. 6. 

How Charity Eacels both Faith and Hope 73 

wedding garment, without this oil which fed the 
lamps of the wise Virgins, there is no admittance 
to the Marriage of the Lamb. 

It is here that we may sing with the Psalmist: 
The Lord hath looked down from Heaven upon 
the children of men to see if there be any that 
understand and seek God, that is, to know how 
He wishes to be served. They are all gone aside, 
they are become unprofitable together: there is 
none that doeth good, no, not one.* This means 
that there is not one who doth good in spirit and 
in truth. Yet, what is serving Him in spirit and in 
truth but resolving to honour and obey Him, for 
the love of Himself, without admixture of private 
self-interest ? 

But whoever has learnt to serve God after the 
pattern of those His beloved ones, who worship 
Him in spirit and in truth, in burning Faith and 
Hope, animated by Charity, may be said to be of 
the number of the holy nation, the royal Priest- 
hood, the chosen people, and to have entered into 
the sanctuary of true and Christian holinesss, of 
which our Blessed Father speaks thus: ‘‘In the 
sanctuary was kept the ark of the covenant, and 
near it the tables of the law, manna in a golden 
vessel, and Aaron’s rod, which in one night bore 
flowers and fruit. And in the highest point of 
the soul are found: 1°. The light of Faith, figured 
by the manna hidden in its vessel, by which we 
recognize the truth of the mysteries we do not 
understand. 2°. The utility of Hope, represented 
by Aaron’s flowering and fruitful rod, by which 
we acquiesce in the promises of the goods which 
we see not. 3°. The sweetness of holy Charity, 

“ealm itl. 2y a 

74 The Spirit of St. Francs De Sales 

represented by God’s commandments, the keeping 
of which it includes, by which we acquiesce in the 
union of our spirit with God’s, though yet are 
hardly, if at all, conscious of this our happiness’’* 


Our Blessed Father considered that no thought 
is of such avail to urge us forward towards the 
perfection of divine love as the consideration of 
the Passion and Death of the Son of God. This 
he called the sweetest, and yet the most constrain- 
ing of all motives of piety. 

And when I asked him how he could possibly 
mention gentleness and constraint or violence in the 
same breath, he answered, “ I can do so in the sense 
in which the Apostle says that the Charity of God 
presses us, constrains us, impels us, draws us, for 
such is the meaning of the word Urqet.t In the 
same sense as that in which the Holy Ghost in the 
Canticle of Canticles tells us that Love is as strong 
as death and fierce as hell.” 

‘We cannot deny,” he added, “‘that love is 
the very essence of sweetness, and the sweetener of 
all bitterness, yet see how it is compared to what 
is most irresistible, namely, death and hell. The 
reason of this is that as there is nothing so strong 
as the sweetness of love, so also there is nothing 
more sweet and more lovable than its strength. 
Oil and honey are each smooth and sweet,but when 
boiling nothing is to be compared with the heat they 

give out. 
* Book i. 12. 
2° Cor, V. on 

Some Thoughts of Blessed Francis, dc. 75 

The bee when not interfered with is the most 
harmless of insects; irritated its sting is the 
sharpest of all. 

Jesus Crucified is the Lion of the tribe of Judah— 
He is the answer to Samson’s riddle, for in His 
wounds is found the honeycomb of the strongest 
charity, and from this strength proceeds the 
sweetness of our greatest consolation. And cer- 
tainly since our Lord’s dying for us, as all 
Scripture testifies, is the climax of his love, it 
ought also to be the strongest of all our motives 
for loving Him. 

This it is which made St. Bernard exclaim: 
‘Oh, my Lord, I entreat Thee to grant that my 
whole heart may be so absorbed and, as it were, 
consumed in the burning strength and honeyed 
sweetness of Thy crucified love, that I may die 
for the love of Thy love, O Redeemer of my soul, 
as Thou hast deigned to die for the love of my 

It is this excess of love, which on the hill of 
Calvary drained the last drop of life-blood from 
the Sacred Heart of the Lover of our Souls; it 
is of this love that Moses and Elias spoke on 
Mount Thabor amid the glory of the Transfigura- 

They spoke of it to teach us that even in the 
glory of Heaven, of which the Transfiguration was 
Only a glimpse, after the vision of the goodness 
of God contemplated and loved in itself, and for 
itself, there will be no more powerful incentive 
towards the love of our Divine Saviour than the 
remembrance of His Death and Passion. 

We have a signal testimony to this truth in the 
Apocalypse, where the Saints and Angels chant 

76 = The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

these words before the throne of Him that liveth 
for ever and ever: Worthy is the Lamb that was 
slain to receive power, and divinity, and wisdom, 
and strength, and honour, and glory, and benedic- 
tion from every creature which is in Heaven, and 
on the earth.’’* 


I was speaking on one occasion of the writings 
of Seneca and of Plutarch, praising them highly 
and saying that they had been my delight when 
young, our Blessed Father replied: ‘‘ After having 
tasted the manna of the Fathers and Theologians, 
this is to hanker for the leeks and garlic of Egypt.” 
When I rejoined that these above mentioned 
writers furnished me with all that I could desire 
for instruction in morals, and that Seneca seemed 
to me more like a christian author than a pagan, 
he said: “* There I differ from you entirely. I con- 
sider that no spirit is more absolutely opposed to 
the spirit of christianity than that of Seneca, and 
no more dangerous reading for a soul aiming at 
true piety can be found than his works.” 

Being much surprised at this opinion, and 
asking for an explanation, he went on to say: 
“ This opposition between the two spirits comes 
from the fact that Seneca would have us look for 
perfection within ourselves, whereas we must seek it 
outside ourselves, in God, that is to say, in the 
grace which God pours into our souls through the 
Holy Ghost. NotI, but the grace of God with me.t 
By this grace we are what we are. The spirit of 

* Apoc. v. 12, 18. 
tr Cor. x. 10. 

Upon the Pure Love of Our Neighbour 77 

Seneca inflates the soul and puffs it up with pride, 
that of Christianity rejects the knowledge which 
puffs up in order to embrace the charity which 
edifies. In short, there is the same difference 
between the spirit of Seneca and the christian 
spirit that there is between virtues acquired by us, 
which are, therefore, dead, and virtues that are 
infused by God, which are, therefore, living. 
Indeed, how could this philosopher, being destitute 
of the true Faith, possess charity? And yet well 
we know that without charity all acquired virtues 
are unable to save us.” 


Our Blessed Father, in his Twelfth Conference, 
teaches how to love one’s neighbour, for whom 
his own love was so pure and so unfeigned. 

‘“ We must look upon all the souls of men as rest- 
ing in the Heart of our Saviour. Alas! they who 
regard their fellow-men in any other way run the 
risk of not loving them with purity, constancy, or 
impartiality. But beholding them in that divine 
resting place, who can do otherwise than love them, 
bear with them, and be patient with their imper- 
fections? Who dare call them irritating or trouble- 
some? Yes, my daughters, your neighbour is 
there in the Heart of the Saviour, and there so be- 
loved and lovable that the Divine Lover dies for 
love of him.” 

A truly charitable love of our neighbour is a 
rarer thing than one would think. It is like the few 
particles of gold which are found on the shores of 
the Tagus, among masses of sand. 

78 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

Hear what he says on this subject in the eighth 
of his Spiritual Conferences : 

‘There are certain kinds of affection which 
appear very elevated and very perfect in the eyes 
of creatures, but which in the sight of God are of 
low degree and valueless. Such are all friendships 
based, not only on true charity, which is God, but 
only on natural inclinations and human motives. 

On the other hand, there are friendships which 
in the eyes of the world appear mean and despi- 
cable, but which in the sight of God have every 
excellence, because they are built up in God, and 
for God, without admixture of human interests. 
Now acts of charity which are performed for those 
whom we love in this way are truly noble in their 
nature, and are, indeed, perfect acts, inasmuch as 
they tend purely to God, while the services which 
we render to those whom we love from natural 
inclination are of far less merit. Generally speak- 
ing, we do these more for the sake of the great 
delight and satisfaction they cause us than for the 
love of God.” He goes on to say: ‘‘ The former 
kind of friendship is likewise inferior to the latter 
in that it is not lasting. Its motive is so weak 
that when slighted or not responded to it easily 
grows cold, and finally disappears. Far otherwise 
that affection which has its fcundation in God, and 
therefore a motive which above all others is solid 
and abiding. 

Human affection is founded on the possession 
by the person we love of qualities which may be lost. 
It can, therefore, never be very secure. On the 
contrary, he who loves in God, and only in God, 
need fear no change, because God is always Him- 

Upon Bearing with one Another 79 

self.” Again, speaking on this subject, our 
Blessed Father says: ‘‘ All the other bonds which 
link hearts one to another are of glass, or jet; but 
the chain of holy charity is of gold and diamonds.” 
In another place he remarks: ‘“‘ St. Catherine of 
Sienna illustrates the subject by means of a beauti- 
ful simile. ‘If,’ she says, ‘you take a glass and 
fill it from a spring, and if while drinking from this 
glass you do not remove it from the spring, you 
may drink as much as you please without ever 
emptying the glass.’ So it is with friendships: if 
we never withdraw them from their source they 
never dry up.” 


He laid great stress at all times on the duty of 
bearing with our neighbour, and thus obeying the 
commands of Holy Scripture, Bear ye one another’s 
burdens, and se you shall fulfil the law of Chnst,* 
and the counsels of the Apostle who so emphati- 
cally recommends this mutual support. ‘‘ To-day 
mine, to-morrow thine.’ If to-day we put up with 
the ill-temper of our brother, to-morrow he will 
bear with our imperfections. We must in this life 
do like those who, walking on ice, give their hands 
to One another, so that if one slips, the other who 
has a firm foothold may support him. 

St. John the Evangelist, towards the close of his 
life, exhorted his brethren not to deny one another 
this support, but to foster mutual charity, which 
prompts the Christian to help his neighbour, and 
is one of the chiefest precepts of Jesus Christ, Who, 
true Lamb of God, endured, and carried on His 

*Gal. vi. 2. 

80 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

shoulders, and on the wood of the Cross, all our 
sins—an infinitely heavy burden, nor to be borne 
by any but Him. The value set by our Blessed 
Father on this mutual support was marvellous, and 
he went so far as to look upon it as the crown of 
our perfection. 

He says on the subject to one who was very dear 
to him: “It is a great part of our perfection to 
bear with one another in our imperfections; for 
there is no better way of showing our own love for 
our neighbour.”’ 

God will, in His mercy, bear with him who has 
mercifully borne with the defects of his neigh- 

Forgive, and you shall be forgiven. Give, and tt 
Shall be given to you. Good measure of blessings, 
and pressed down, and shaken together, and run- 
ning over Shall they give into your bosom.* 


Speaking, my dear sisters, as he often did, on the 
important subject of brotherly or friendly reproof, 
our Blessed Father made use of words profitable to 
us all, but especially to those who are in authority, 
and have therefore to rule and guide others. 

He said: ‘‘ Truth which is not charitable pro- 
ceeds from a charity which is not true.” 

When I asked him how we could feel certain that 
our reproofs were given out of sincere charity, he 
answered : 

“ When we speak the truth only for the love of 
God, and for the good of our neighbour, whom we 

are reproving.”’ 
*St. Luke vi. 37, 38. 

Upon Fraternal Correction 81 

He added: ‘‘ We must follow the counsels of the 
great Apostle St. Paul, when he bids us reprove in 
a spirit of meekness.* 

Indeed gentleness is the intimate friend of 
charity and its inseparable companion.’’ This is 
what St. Paul means when he says that charity 1s 
kind, and beareth all things, and endureth all 
things.t God, who is Charity, guides the mild in 
judgment and teaches the meek. His way, His 
Spirit, is not in the whirlwind, nor in the storm, nor 
in the tempest, nor in the voice of many waters; but 
in a gentle and whispering wind. Mildness is 
come upon us, says the Royal Psalmist, and we 
Shall be corrected.t 

Again Blessed Francis advised us to imitate the 
Good Samaritan, who poured oil and wine into the 
wounds of the poor wayfarer fallen among thieves. § 
He used to say that ‘“‘ to make a good salad you 
want more oil than either vinegar or salt.” 

I will give you some more of his memorable say- 
ings on this subject. Many a time I have heard 
them from his own lips: ** Always be as gentle as 
you can, and remember that more flies are caught 
with a spoonful of honey than with a hundred bar- 
rels of vinegar. If we must err in one direction or 
the other, let it be in that of gentleness. No sauce 
was ever spoilt by too much sugar. The human 
mind is so constituted that it rebels against harsh- 
ness, but becomes perfectly tractable under gentle 
treatment. A mild word cools the heat of anger, as 
water extinguishes fire. There is no soil so un- 
grateful as not to bear fruit when a kindly hand cul- 
tivates it. To tell our neighbour wholesome truths 

Gaal. vi: 1. » ty Cor xiii. 4, 7: {Psalm lxxxix. vo 
Sot. Luke x. 34 

82 The Spirit of St Francis De Sales 

tenderly is to throw red roses rather than red-hot 
coals in his face. How could we be angry with 
any one who pelted us with pearls or deluged us 
with rose water! There is nothing more bitter 
than a green walnut, but when preserved in sugar 
there is nothing sweeter or more digestible. Re- 
proof is by nature harsh and biting, but confec- 
tioned in sweetness and warmed through and 
through in the fire of charity, it becomes salutary, 
pleasant, and even delightful. The just will cor- 
rect me with mercy, and the oil of the flatterer shall 
not anoint my head.* Better are the wounds of a 
friend than the kisses of the hypocrite;t if the 
sharpness of the friend’s tongue pierce me it is only 
as the lancet of the surgeon, which probes the 
abscess and lacerates in order to heal.” 

‘But (I replied) truth is always truth in whatever 
language it may be couched, and in whatever sense 
it may be taken.’’ In support of this assertion I 
quoted the words spoken by St. Paul to Timothy: 

Preach the word; be instant in season, out of 
season, reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience 
and doctrine; but, according to their own desires, 
they will heap to themselves teachers having itch- 
ing ears, and will, indeed, turn away their hearing 
from the truth, but will be turned into fables.t 

Our Blessed Father replied: ‘‘ The whole force 
of that apostolic lesson lies in the phrase: In all 
patience and doctrine. Doctrine signifies truth, 
and this truth must be spoken with patience. 
When I use the word patience, I am trying to put 
before you an attitude of mind which is not one of 
confident expectation, that truth will always meet 

*Psalm cx). 5. +Prov. xxvii» 6. fi Tim. Ww. 2) @. 

Upon Fraternal Correction 83 

with a hearty welcome, and even some degree of 
acclamation; but an attitude of mind which is on 
the contrary prepared to meet with repulse, repro- 
bation, rejection. 

Surely, seeing that the Son of God was set for a 
sign of contradiction, we cannot be surprised if His 
doctrine, which is the truth, is marked with the 
same seal! Surprised! Nay, of necessity it must 
be so. | 

Consider the many false constructions and mur- 
murings to which the sacred truths preached by our 
Saviour during His life on earth were exposed! 

Was not this one of the reproaches addressed 
by Him to the Jews: If I say the truth you believe 
me not. 

Was not our Lord Himself looked upon as an 
impostor, a seditious person, a blasphemer, one 
possessed by the devil? Did they not even take up 
stones to cast at him? Yet, He cursed not those 
who cursed Him; but repaid their maledictions with 
blessings, possessing His soul in patience.” 

Blessed Francis wrote to me on this same subject 
a letter, which has since been printed among his 
works,* in which he expressed himself as fol- 

** Everyone who wishes to instruct others in the 
way of holiness must be prepared to bear with their 
injustice and unreasonableness, and to be rewarded 
with ingratitude. Oh! how happy will you be 
when men slander you, and say all manner of evil 
of you, hating the truth which you offer them. 
Rejoice with much joy, for so much the greater is 
your reward in Heaven. It is a royal thing to be 

84 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

calumniated for having done well, and to be stoned 
in a good cause.” 


I was one day complaining to him of certain 
small land-owners, who having nothing but their 
gentle birth to boast of, and being as poor as Job, 
yet set up as great noblemen, and even as princes, 
boasting of their high birth, of their genealogy, and 
of the glorious deeds of their ancestors. I quoted 
the saying of the wise man, that he hated, among 
other things, with a perfect hatred the poor proud 
man, adding that I entirely agreed with him. 

To boast in the multitude of our riches is natural, 
but to be vain in our poverty is beyond understand- 

He answered me thus: ‘‘ What would you have? 
Do you want these poor people to be doubly poor, 
like sick physicians, who, the more they know about 
their disease the more disconsolate they are? At 
all events, if they are rich in honours they will think 
the less of their poverty, and will behave perhaps 
like that young Athenian, who in his madness con- 
sidered himself the richest person in his neighbour- 
hood, and being cured of his mental weakness 
through the kind intervention of his friends, had 
them arraigned before the judges, and condemned 
to give him back his pleasant illusion. What 
would you have, I repeat? It is in the very nature 
of nobility to meet the rebuffs of fortune with a 
cheerful courage; like the palm-tree which lifts itself 
up under its burden. Would to God they had 

Upon Finding Excuses, &c. 85 

no greater failing than this! It is against that 
wretched and detestable habit of fighting duels that 
we ought to raise our voice.’ Saying this, he gave 
a profound sigh. 

A certain lady had been guilty of a most serious 
fault, committed, indeed, through mere weakness 
of character, but none the less scandalous in the 
extreme. Our Blessed Father, being informed of 
what had happened, and having every kind of vehe- 
ment invective against the unfortunate person 
poured into his ears, only said: “ Human misery! 
human misery!’’ And again, “ Ah! how we are 
encompassed with infirmity! What can we do of 
ourselves, but fail? We should, perhaps, do worse 
than this if God did not hold us by the right hand, 
and guide us to His will.’’ At last, weary of fenc- 
ing thus, he faced the battle, and the comments on 
this unhappy fall becoming ever sharper and more 
emphatic, exclaimed: “ Oh! happy fault, of what 
great good will it not be the cause!* This lady’s 
soul would have perished with many others had she 
not lost herself. Her loss will be her gain, and the 
gain of many others.” 

Some of those who heard this prediction merely 
shrugged their shoulders. Nevertheless, it was 
verified. The sinning soul returned to give glory 
to God, and the community which she had scanda- 
lized was greatly edified by her conversion and sub- 
sequent good example. 

This story reminds me of the words used by the 
Church in one of her offices. Words in which she 
calls the sin of Adam thrice happy, since because 
of it the Redeemer came down to our earth—a for- 

*Office for Holy Saturday. 

86 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

tunate malady, since it brought us the visit of so 
great a Physician. 

‘“ Even sins,’’? says our Blessed Father, in one 
of his letters, ‘‘ work together for good to those who 
truly repent of them.” 


Men see the exterior; God alone sees the heart, 
and knows the inmost thoughts of all. Our 
Blessed Father used to say that the soul of our 
neighbour was that tree of the knowledge of good 
and evil which we are forbidden to touch under 
pain of severe chastisement; because God has re- 
served to Himself the judgment of each individual 
soul. Who art thou, says Sacred Scripture, who 
judgest thy brother? Knowest thou that wherein 
thou judgest another thou condemnest thyself ?* 

Who has given thee the hardihood to take upon 
thyself the office of Him Who has received from the 
Eternal Father all judgment? That is to say, all 
power of judging in Heaven and on earth? He 
observed that a want of balance of mind, very com- 
mon among men, leads them to judge of what they 
do not know, and not to judge of what they do 
know. They, as St. Jude declares, blaspheme in 
what they know not, and corrupt themselves in 
what they know.+ They are blind to what passes 
in their own homes, but preternaturally clear- 
sighted to all happening in the houses of others. 

Now what is this that a man knows not at all? 
Surely, the heart; the secret thoughts of his neigh- 
bour. And yet how eager is he to dip the fingers 
of his curiosity in this covered dish reserved for the 

*Rom. ii. 1. tSt. Jude ro. 

Upon not judging others 87 

Great Master. And what is it that a man knows 
best of all, or at least ought to know? Surely, his 
own heart; his own secret thoughts. Nevertheless, 
he fears to enter into himself, and to stand in his 
own presence as a criminal before his judge. He 
dreads above aught besides the implacable tribunal 
of his own conscience, itself alone more surely con: 
victing than a thousand witnesses. 

Our Blessed Father pictures very vividly this 
kind of injustice in his Philothea, where he says: 
“ It is equally necessary in order to escape being 
judged that we both judge ourselves, and that we 
refrain from judging others. Our Lord forbids the 
latter* and His Apostle commands the former. If 
we would judge ourselves we should not be 
judged.t Our way is the very reverse. What is 
forbidden to us we are continually doing. Judging 
our neighbour on all possible occasions, and what 
is commanded us, namely, to judge ourselves, that 
the last thing we think of.’’ 

“ A certain woman ” (Blessed Francis continued 
with a smile), ‘‘all her life long had on principle 
done exactly the contrary to what her husband 
wanted her to do. In the end she fell into a river 
and was drowned. Her husband tried to recover 
the body, but was found fault with for going up the 
stream, since she must, necessarily, float down with 
the current. ‘And do you really imagine,’ he 
exclaimed, ‘ that even her dead body could do any- 
thing else but contradict me?’ Weare, most of 
us, very like that woman,” said the Saint. ‘‘ Yet 
it is written: Judge not, and you shall not be 
judged; condemn not, and you shall not be con- 

*St, Matt. vii. r. tr Cor. xi. 31. [7he Devout Life, 
Part if. 28. SSt. Luke vi. 37. 

88 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

How, then, you will say, is it lawful to have 
judges and courts of justice, since man may not 
judge his neighbour? I will try to answer this 
objection in Blessed Francis’ own words: 

“But may we, then, under no circumstances 
judge our neighbour? Under no circumstances 
whatever—for in a court of justice it is God, Philo- 
thea, not man, who judges and pronounces sen- 
tence. Itis true that He makes use of the voice of 
the magistrate, but only to render His own sentence 
audible to us. Earthly judges are His spokesmen 
and interpreters, nor ought they to decide anything 
but as they have learnt from Him of Whom they 
are the oracles. It is when they do otherwise, and 
follow the lead of their own passions, that they, and 
not God, judge, and that consequently they them- 
selves will be judged. In fact, it is forbidden to 
men, as men, to judge others.* This is why Scrip- 
ture gives the name of godst to judges, because 
when judging they hold the place of God, and 
Moses for that reason is called the god 
of Pharaoh.’’} 

You ask if we are forbidden to entertain doubts 
about our neighbour when founded on good and 
strong reasons. I answer we are not so forbidden, 
because to suspend judgment is not to judge, but 
only to take a step towards it. We must, neverthe- 
less, beware of being thereby hurried on to form 
a hasty judgment, for that is the rock on which so 
many make shipwreck ; that is the flare of the torch 
in which so many thoughtless moths singe their 
tiny wings. Á 

In order that we may avoid this danger he gives 

*The Devout Life. Part iii. 28. ĦtPsalm lxxxi. r, 6. 
tExod. vii. 1. 

Upon not judging others 89 

us an excellent maxim, one which is not only use- 
ful, but necessary to us. Itis that, however many 
aspects an action may have, the one we should 
dwell upon should be that which is the best. 

If it is impossible to excuse an action, we can at 
least modify our blame of it by excusing the inten- 
tion, or we may lay the blame on the violence of the 
temptation, or impute it to ignorance, or to the 
being taken by surprise, or to human weakness, so 
as at least to try to lessen the scandal of it. If you 
are told that by doing this you are blessing the 
unrighteous and seeking excuses for sin, you may 
reply that without either praising or excusing his 
sin you can be merciful to the sinner. 

You may add that judgment without mercy will 
be the lot of those who have no pity for the misfor- 
tunes or the infirmities of their brother, and who 
in him despise their own flesh. We all are 
brethren, all of one flesh. In fact, as says our 
Blessed Father, those who look well after their own 
consciences rarely fall into the sin of rash judg- 
ment. To judge rashly is proper to slothful souls, 
which, because they never busy themselves with 
their own concerns, have leisure to devote their 
energies to finding fault with others. . 

An ancient writer expresses this well. Men who 
are curious in their inquiries into the lives of others 
are mostly careless about correcting their own 
faults. The virtuous man is like the sky, of which 
the stars are, as it were, the eyes turned in upon 


“ We do,” as Blessed Francis has said, ‘‘ exactly 
the reverse of what the Gospel bids us do. The 

90 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

Gospel commands us to judge ourselves severely 
and exactly, while it forbids us to judge our 
brethren. If we did judge ourselves, we should not 
be judged by God, because, forestalling His judg- 
ment and confessing our faults, we should escape 
His condemnation. On the other hand, who are 
we that we should judge our brethren, the servants 
of another? To their own Master they rise or fall. 

Let us not judge before the time until the Lord 
shall reveal what is hidden in darkness and ‘pierce 
the wall of the temple to show what passes therein. 
Man judges by appearances only. God alone sees 
the heart; and it is by that which is within that true 
judgment is made of that which is without. 

So rash are we in our judgments that we as 
often as not seize the firebrand by the burning end; 
that is, we condemn ourselves while in the very act 
of rebuking others. The reproach of the Gospel, 
Physician, heal thyself,* we may take to ourselves. 
So also that other, Why seest thou the mote that is 
in thy brother’s eye, and seest not the beam that is 
in thy own eye?t To notice which way we are 
going is the first condition of our walking in the 
right way, according to the words of David, I have 
thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy 
testumonies.t So, on the other hand, we go astray 
if we do not pay attention to the path we are follow- 
ing. Judge not others and you will not be judged; 
judge yourselves, and God will have mercy on 


There is a difference between uttering a falsehood 
and making a mistake—for to lie is to say what one 
*St. Luke iv. 23. tSt. Matt. vii. 3. fPsalm cxviii. 509. 

Upon Slander and Detraction 91 

knows or believes to be false; but to mistake is to 
say, indeed, what is false, but what one nevertheless 
thinks in good faith to be true. Similarly, there is 
a great difference between slandering our neighbour 
and recounting his evil deeds. The wrong doing 
of our neighbour may be spoken of either with a 
good or with a bad intention. The intention is 
good when the faults of our neighbour are reported 
to one who can remedy them, or whose business it 
is to correct the wrong-doer, whether for the public 
good or for the sinner’s own. 

Again, there is no harm in speaking among 
friends of harm done, provided it be from friendli- 
ness, benevolence, or compassion; and this more 
especially when the fault is public and notorious. 

We slander our neighbour, then, only when, 
whether true or false, we recount his misdeeds with 
intention to harm him, or out of hatred, envy, 
anger, contempt, and from a wish to take away his 
fair name. 

We slander our neighbour when we make known 
his faults, though neither obliged so to do nor hav- 
ing in view his good nor the good of others. The 
sin of slander is mortal or venial according to the 
measure of the wrong we may thereby have done 
to our neighbour. 

Our Blessed Father used to say that to do away 
with slander would be to do away with most of the 
sins of mankind. He was right, for of sins of 
thought, word, and deed, the most frequent and 
often the most hurtful in their effects are those com- 
mitted with the tongue. And this for several 

Firstly, sins of thought are only hurtful to him 

92 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

who commits them. They are neither occasion for 
scandal, nor do they annoy anyone, nor give any- 
one bad example. God alone knows them, and it 
is He alone who is offended by them. Then, too, 
a return to God by loving repentance effaces them 
in a moment, and heals the wound which they have 
inflicted on the heart. | 

Sins of the tongue, on the other hand, are not so 
readily got rid of. A harmful word can only be 
recalled by retracting it, and even then the minds 
of our hearers mostly remain infected with the 
poison we poured in through the ears; and this, in 
spite of our humbling ourselves to recall what we 
have said. 

Secondly, sins of deed, when they are publicly 
known, are followed by punishment. This renders 
them rarer, because fear of the penalty acts as a 
curb on even the basest of mankind. 

But slander (except the calumny be of the most 
atrocious and aggravated kind) is not, generally 
speaking, such as comes before the eye of the law. 
On the contrary, if in the guise of bantering it is 
ingenious and subtle it passes current for gallantry 
and wit. 

This is why so many people fall into this evil; 
for, says an ancient writer: “‘ Impunity is a dainty 
allurement to sin.” 

Thirdly, slandering finds encouragement in the 
very small amount of restitution and reparation 
made for this fault. Indeed, in my opinion, those 
who direct souls in the tribunal of penance are a 
little too indulgent, not to say lax, in this matter. 

If anyone has inflicted a bodily injury on another 
see how severely the justice of the law punishes the 

Upon Hasty Judgments 93 

outrage. In olden days the law of retaliation de- 
manded an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. 
If a man stole the goods of another he was con- 
demned to the galleys, or even to the gibbet. But 
in the case of slander, unless, as I have said, it be 
of the most highly aggravated kind, there is 
scarcely a thought of making reparation, even by a 
courteous apology. Yet those who sit in high 
places value their reputation much more than 
riches, or life itself, seeing that among all natural 
blessings, honour undoubtedly holds the first rank. 
Since, then, we cannot gain admittance into heaven 
without having restored that which belongs to 
another, let the slanderer consider how he can pos- 
sibly hope for an entrance there unless he re- 
establishes his neighbour’s reputation, which he 
tried to destroy by detraction. 

Upon Hasty JUDGMENTS. 

Our Blessed Father insisted most earnestly upon 
the difference which exists between a vice and sin, 
reproving those who spoke of a person who had 
committed one or more grave faults as vicious. 

‘“ Virtuous habits,’ he would say, ‘‘ not being 
destroyed by One act contrary to them, a man can- 
not be branded as intemperate because he has once 
been guilty of intemperance.’’ 

Thus when he heard anyone condemned as bad 
because he had committed a bad act, he took pains 
with his accustomed gentleness to modify the 
charge by making a distinction between vice and 
sin, the former being a habit, the latter an isolated 

“ Vice,” he said, ‘‘ is a habit, sin, the outcome 

94 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

of that habit; and just as one swallow does not 
make a summer, so one act of sin does not make a 
person vicious. That is to say, it does not render 
him a sinner in the sense of being steeped in and 
wholly given over to the dominion of the particular 
vice, the act of which he has committed once, or 
even more than once.”’ 

Being asked whether in conformity with this 
principle it would not be equally wrong to praise 
anyone fora single act of virtue, as if that virtue 
were his or her constant habit, he replied: ‘* You 
must remember that we are forbidden to judge our 
neighbour in the matter of the evil which he may 
appear to do, but notin the good. On the contrary, 
we may and should suppose that he has the good 
habit from which the act seen by us naturally 
springs. Nor can we err in such a supposition, 
since the very perfection of charity consists in its 
excess. But when we judge evil of others, our 
tongue is like the lancet in the surgeon’s hand, and 
you know how careful he must be not to pierce an 
artery in Opening a vein. We must only judge 
from what we see. We may say that a man has 
blasphemed and sworn, if we have heard him do so; 
but we may not in that account alone say that he is 
a blasphemer; that is, that he has contracted the 
habit of blasphemy, substituting the vice for the 

The objection was raised that it would follow that 
we must never attempt to judge whether a person 
is or is not in a state of grace, however holy his 
life may seem to be; since no one knows whether 
he is worthy of love or of hate, and least of all we, 
who know our neighbour far less intimately than 

Upon Ridiculing Ones Neighbour 95 

= he knows himself. To this he replied, that if faith, 
according to St. James, is known by its works,* 
much more is charity so known, since it is a more 
active virtue, its works being the sparks from see- 
ing which we learn that its fire is still burning some- 
where. And though when we saw a sin, which is 
undoubtediy mortal, being committed, we might 
have said that the sinner was no longer in a state 
of grace, how do we know that a moment after- 
wards God may not have touched his heart, and that 
he may not have been converted from his evil ways 
by an act of contrition? This is why we must 
always fear to judge evil of others, but as regards 
judging well, we are free to do so as much as we 
please. Charity grows more and more by hoping 
all good of its neighbour, by thinking no evil, by 
rejoicing in truth and goodness, but not in 


When in company he heard anyone being turned 
into ridicule, he always showed by his countenance 
that the conversation displeased him, and would try 
to turn the subject by introducing some other. 
When unsuccessful in this he would give the signal 
to cease, as is done in tournaments when the com- 
batants are becoming too heated, and thus put a 
stop to the combat, crying: ‘‘ This is too much! 
This is trampling too violently on the good man! 
This is altogether going beyond bounds! Who 
gives us the right to amuse ourselves thus at the 
expense of another? How should we like to be 

talked about like this, and to have our little weak- 
*St. James ii. 17, 26. 

96 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

nesses brought out, just to amuse anybody who may 
chance to hear? To put up with our neighbour 
and his imperfections is a great perfection, but it 
is a great imperfection to laugh at him and his 

He expresses himself to Philothea on the same 
subject as follows: 

‘“ A tendency to ridicule and mock at others is 
one of the worst possible conditions of mind. God 
hates this vice exceedingly, as He has often shown 
by the strange punishments which have awaited it. 
Nothing is so contrary to charity, and still more so 
to devotion, as contempt and disparagement of our 
neighbour. Now derision and ridicule are always 
simply contempt, so that the learned are justified 
in saying that to mock at our neighbour is the worst 
kind of injury that we can by mere word inflict on 
him; because all other words of disparagement are 
compatible with some degree of esteem for the 
person injured, but ridicule is essentially the ex- 
pression of contempt and disdain.’’* 

Now Holy Scripture pronounces woe upon those 
who despise others, and threatens them with being 
despised themselves. God always takes the part of 
the despised against the despiser. Our Lord says: 
He who despises you, despises Me;t and speaking 
of little children, Take heed that you despise not 
one of them.t And Almighty God in comforting 
Moses for an insult offered to the great law-giver 
by the Children of Israel, says: They have not 
despised you, but Me. 

On one occasion when Blessed Francis was 
present some young lady in the company was ridi- 

*The Devout Life. Part iii. c. 27,  tTLuke x. 16. 
tMatt. xviii. ro. 

Upon Ridiculing Ones Neighbour 97 

= culing another who was conspicuously ill-favoured. 
Defects born with her were what were being 
laughed over. He gently reminded the speaker 
that it is God Who has made us and not we our- 
selves and that all His works are perfect. But the 
latter assertion only making her jeer the more, he 
ended by saying: “‘ Believe me, I know for a fact 
her soul is more upright, more beautiful, and better 
_ formed than you can possibly have any conception 
of.’ This silenced her and sent her away abashed. 
On another occasion he heard some people laugh- 
ing at a poor hump-back who was absent at the time. 
= Our Blessed Father instantly took up his defence, 
_ quoting again those words of Scripture: The works 
of God are perfect. “What!” exclaimed one of 
the company. ‘‘ Perfect! and yet deformed!’ 
= Blessed Francis replied pleasantly: ‘‘ And do you 
_ really think that there cannot be perfect hunch- 
_ backs, just as much as others are perfect because 
_ gracefully made and straight as a dart!’ In fine, 
_ when they tried to make him explain what perfec- 
' tion he meant, whether outward or inward, he said: 
‘““ Enough. What I tell you is true; let us talk of 
_ something better.” 


-There is no kind of disposition more displeasing 
| to men than one which is obstinate and contradic- 
| tory. People of this sort are pests of conversation, 
firebrands in social intercourse, sowers of discord. 
_ Like hedgehogs and horse-chestnuts, they have 

prickles all over them, and cannot be handled. On 
the other hand, a gentle, pliable, condescending 
disposition, which is ready to give way to others, 


98 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

is a living charm. It is like the honeycomb which 
attracts every sort of fly; it becomes everybody’s 
master, because it makes itself everybody’s servant; 
being all things to all men, it wins them all. 

People of a peevish, morose disposition soon find 
themselves left alone in a mighty solitude; they are 
avoided like thistles which prick whoever touches 
them. Our Blessed Father always spoke with the 
highest praise of the dictum of St. Louis, that we 
should never speak evil of anyone, unless when by 
our silence we should seem to hold with him in his 
wrong-doing, and so give scandal to others. 

The holy King did not inculcate this from 
motives of worldly prudence, which he detested; 
nor was he following the maxim of that pagan Em- 
peror, who declared that no one, in quitting the 
presence of his Sovereign, should ever be suffered 
to go away dissatisfied, a saying dictated by cun- 
ning and with the object of teaching his fellow- 
potentates to win men by fair words. No, St. Louis 
was travelling by a very different road, and spoke 
in a truly Christian spirit, desiring only to hinder 
disputes and contentions, and to follow the advice 
af St. Paul, who wishes that we should avoid con- 
tentions and strivings.* But if, when it is in our 
power to do so, we do not openly condemn the fault 
or error of another, will not that be a sort of con- 
nivance at, andconsequently a participation in, the 
wrong-doing? Our Blessed Father answers that 
difficulty thus: ‘‘ When it is a question of contra- 
dicting another, and of setting your opinion against 
his, it must be done with the utmost gentleness and 
tact, and without any desire to wound the feelings 

*Titus iii. Q. 

Upon Contradicting Others 99 

of the other; for nothing is gained by taking things 

If you irritate a horse by teasing him he will, if 
he has any mettle, take the bit between his teeth 
and carry you just where he pleases. But when you 
slacken the rein he stops and becomes tractable. 

So it is with the mind of another; if you 
force it to assent, you humble it; if you humble 
it, you irritate it; if you irritate it, you utterly 
lose hold of it. The mind may be per- 
suaded; it cannot be constrained; to force it 
to believe is to force it from all belief. Is mildness 
come upon us? says David; then are we cor- 
rected.* The Spirit of God, gentle and sweet, is 
in the soft refreshing zephyrs, not in the whirlwind, 
nor in the tempest. It is God’s enemy, the devil, 
who is called a spirit of contradiction; and such 
human beings as imitate him share his title. 


Some one having complained to Blessed Francis 
of the difficulty he found in obeying the christian 
precept commanding us to love our enemies, he re- 
plied: ‘‘ As for me, I know not how my heart is 
made, or how it happens that God seems to have 
been pleased to give me lately altogether a new one. 
Certain it is that I not only find no difficulty in prac- 
tising this precept; but I take such pleasure in doing 
it, and experience so peculiar and delightful a sweet- 
ness in it, that if God had forbidden me to love 
my enemies I should have had great difficulty in 
obeying Him. 

It seems to me that the very contradiction and 

*Psalm Ixxxix. ro. 

100 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

opposition we meet with from our fellow-men ought 
to rouse our spirit to love them more, for they serve 
as a whetstone to sharpen our virtue. 

Aloes make honey seem sweeter; and wine has 
a more delicious flavour if we drink it after having 
eaten bitter almonds. It is true that mostly a little 
conflict and struggle goes on in our minds; but in 
the end it will surely come to pass with us what the 
Psalmist commands when he says: Be angry and 
sin not.* 

What! Shall we not bear with those whom God 
Himself bears with? We who have ever before our 
eyes the great example of Jesus Christ on the Cross 
praying for His enemies. And then, too, our 
enemies have not crucified us; they have not perse- 
cuted us, even to death; we have not yet resisted 
unto blood. 

Again, who would not love this dear enemy for 
whom Jesus Christ prayed? For whom He died? 
For, mark it well, He prayed not only for those who 
crucified Him, but also for those who persecute 
us, and Himin us. As He testified to Saul when 
He cried out to Him: Why persecutest thou Me ?+ 
That is to say, Me in My members. 

We are not, indeed, obliged to love the vices of 
our enemy; his hatred of good, the enmity which 
he bears us; for all these things are displeasing to 
God, Whom they offend; but we must separate 
the sin from the sinner, the precious from the vile, 
if we desire to be like our Saviour.”’ 

He did not admit the maxim of the world: ‘‘ We 
must not trust a reconciled enemy.” In his opinion 
the exact contrary of this dictum is more in accord- 

ance with truth. 
*Psalm iv. 5. TAC iX 4 

Upon Forgiving our Enemes 101 

He used to say that “‘ fallings out” in the case 
of friends only serve to draw the bonds of friendship 
closer, just as the smith makes use of water to in- 
crease the heat of his fire. He added, asa well- 
known fact in surgery, that the callosity which 
forms over a fractured bone is so dense that the 
limb will never break again at that particular place. 

Indeed, when a reconciliation has taken place be- 
tween two persons hitherto at variance, it is almost 
certain that each will set to work, perhaps even un- 
consciously, to make the newly-cemented friendship 
firmer. The offender by avoiding further offence, 
and atoning as far as possible for what is past, and 
the offended person by endeavouring in a truly 
generous spirit to bury that past in oblivion. 


On the subject of the forgiveness of enemies, 
Blessed Francis told me of an incident which 
occurred at Padua (possibly at the time that he was 
studying there). It appears that certain of the 
students at that university had a bad habit of prowl- 
ing about the streets at night, pistol in hand, chal- 
lenging passers-by with the cry of “ Who goes 
there?” and firing if they did not-receive a humble 
and civil answer. 

One of the gang having one night challenged a 
fellow-student and received no answer, fired, and 
took such good aim that the poor young man fell 
dead on the pavement. Horrified and amazed at the 
fatal result of his mad prank, the student fled, 
hoping to hide from justice. 

The first open door that he saw was that of the 
dwelling of a good widow, whose son was his friend 

102 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

and fellow-student. Hastily entering, he implored 
her to hide him in some safe place, confessing what 
he had done, and that, should he be taken, all was 
over with him. 

The good woman shut him into a little room, 
secret and safe, and there left him. Not many 
minutes had elapsed before a melancholy proces- 
sion approached, and the dead body of her son was 
brought into the house, the bearers telling the dis- 
tracted mother in what manner he had been killed, 
and after a little questioning, giving the name of 
the youth who had shot her child. 

Weeping and broken-hearted, she hurried to the 
place where she had hidden the wretched homicide, 
and it was from her lips that he learned who it was 
that he had deprived of life. 

In an agony of shame and grief, tearing his hair, 
and calling upon death to strike him down, too, he 
threw himself on his knees before the poor mother; 
not, indeed, to ask her pardon, but to entreat her to 
give him up to justice, wishing to expiate publicly 
a crime so barbarous. 

The widow, a most devout and merciful woman, 
was deeply touched by the youth’s repentance, and 
saw clearly that it was thoughtlessness and not mali- 
cious intent that had been the moving spring of the 
deed. She then assured him that, provided he 
would ask pardon of God and change his way of 
life, she would keep her promise and help him to 
escape. This she did, and by so doing imitated the 
gentle kindness of the prophet who spared the lives 
of the Syrian soldiers who had come to murder him, 
he having them in his power in the midst of 

*4 Rege Vi. 12523 

Upon the virtue of Condescension 103 

So pleasing to God was this poor widow’s 
clemency and forgiveness that He permitted the 
soul of her murdered son to appear to her, revealing 
to her that her pardon, granted so readily and 
sweetly to the man who had unintentionally been 
his murderer, had obtained for his soul deliverance 
from Purgatory, in which place he would otherwise 
have been long detained. 

How blessed are the merciful! They shall obtain 
mercy both for themselves and for others! 


I will give you our Blessed Father’s views on 
this subject, first reminding you how unfailingly 
patient he was with the humours of others, hew 
gentle and forbearing at all times towards his 
neighbour, and how perseveringly he inculcated 
the practice of this virtue, not only upon the 
Daughters of the Visitation, but upon all his 
spiritual children. 

He often said to me: ‘‘Oh, how much better 
it would be to accommodate ourselves to others 
rather than to want to bend every one to our own 
ways and opinions! The human mind is like pulp, 
which takes readily any colour mixed with it. The 
great thing is to take care that it be not like the 
chameleon, which, one after the other, takes every 
colour except white. Condescension, if unaccom- 
panied by frankness and purity, is dangerous, and 
much to be avoided. 

It is right to take compassion upon sinners, but 
it must be with the intention of extricating them 
from the mire, not of slothfully leaving them to 
rot and perish in it. It is a perverted sort of 

104 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

mercy to look at our neighbour, sunk in the misery 
of sin, and not venture to extend to him the helping 
hand of a gentle but out-spoken remonstrance. We 
must condescend in everything, but only up to the 
altar steps; that is to say, not beyond the point 
at which condescension would be a sin, and un- 
deserving of its name. I do not say that we must 
at every instant reprove the sinner. Charitable 
prudence demands that we rather wait the moment 
when he is capable of assimilating the remedies 
suitable for his malady, and till God shall give to 
his hearing joy and gladness, and the bones that 
have been humbled shall rejoice.* ‘Turbulent zeal, 
zeal that is neither moderate nor wise, pulls down 
in place of building up. There are some who do 
no good at all, because they wish to do things too 
well, and who spoil everything they try to mend. 
We must make haste slowly, as the ancient proverb 
says. He who walks hurriedly is apt to fall. We 
must be prudent both in reproving others and in 
condescending to them. The King’s honour loveth 
judgment.’ + 


When the Chablais was restored to the Duke of 
Savoy, Bishop de Granier, the predecessor of our 
Holy Founder, eager to further the design of His 
Highness to bring back into the bosom of the 
Roman Church the population that had been led 
astray, sent to it a number of labourers to gather 
in the harvest. Among these, one of the first to 
be chosen was our Saint, at that time Provost of 

*Psalm l. 10. tPsalm xcviii. 4. 

How Blessed Francis, £c. 105 

the Cathedral Church of St. Peter in Geneva, and 
consequently next in dignity to the Bishop. 

With him were sent some Canons, Parish 
Priests, and others. Several members of various 
Religious Orders also presented themselves, eager 
to be employed in this onerous, if honourable, 

It would be impossible to give a just idea of the 
labours of these missionaries, or of the obstacles 
which they encountered at the outset of their holy 
enterprise. The spirit of Blessed Francis was, 
however, most flexible and accomodating, and 
greatly tended to further the work of the people’s 

He was like the manna which assimilated itself 
to the palate of whoever tasted it: he made himself 
all things to all men that he might gain all for 
Jesus Christ. 

In his ordinary mode of conversation and in his 
dress, which was mean and common, he produced 
a much less jarring effect upon the minds and eyes 
of these people than did the members of Religious 
Orders with their various habits and diversities. 

He, as well as the secular Priests who worked 
under him, sometimes even condescended so far 
as to wear the short cloaks and high boots usual in 
the country, so as more easily to gain access to 
private houses, and not to offend the eyes of the 
people by the sight of the cassock, which they were 
unaccustomed to. To this pious stratagem the 
members of Religious Orders were unwilling to 
have recourse, their distinctive habit being, in their 
opinion, almost essential to their profession, or at 

1M. Camus must have been misinformed. St. Francis 

had but few fellow-workers in the early years of his 
mission in the Chablais. [Ed.] 

106 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

least so fitting that it might never lawfully be laid 

Our Blessed Father went on quite a different 
tack, and caught more flies with a spoonful of the 
honey which he was so much in the habit of using, 
than did all the others with their harsher methods. 

Everything about him, whether external or in- 
ternal, breathed the spirit of conciliation: all his 
words, gestures, and ways were those of kindliness. 

Some wished to make themselves feared; but he 
desired only to be loved, and to enter men’s hearts 
through the doorway of affection. On this account, 
whether he spoke in public or in private, he was 
always more attentively listened to than anyone else. 

However much the Protestants might attack him 
and purposely provoke him, he, on his side, ever 
dealt with them in a spirit absolutely free from 
contention, abstaining from anything likely to give 
offence, having often on his lips those beautiful 
words of the Apostle: If any man seem to be con- 
tentious, we have no such custom, nor the Church 
of God.* 

To come now to the particulars which I promised 
you, let me tell you how our Blessed Father, having 
read in St. Augustine’s works and in those of other 
ancient Fathers that in the early centuries Christian 
Priests, in addressing heretics and schismatics, did 
not hesitate to call them their brethren, inferred 
that he might quite lawfully follow so great an 

By doing so he conciliated these people to such 
an extent that they flocked to hear him, and were 
charmed with the sweetness and gentleness of his 
discourses, the outcome of his overflowing kind- 

*: Cor. xi. 16. 

How Blessed Francis, &c. 107 

liness of heart. This mode of expression was, 
however, so offensive to preachers who were in the 
habit of speaking of heretics as rebels against the 
light, uncircumcised of heart, etc., that they called 
a meeting, in which they resolved to remonstrate 
with the Provost (Blessed Francis), and to represent 
to him that, though he meant well, he was in reality 
ruining the cause of Catholics. 

They insisted that he was flattering the pride so 
inherent in heresy, that he was lulling the people 
to sieep in their errors by sewing pillows to their 
elbows; that it was better to correct them in mercy 
and justice than to pour on their heads the oil of 
wheedling, as they called the kindliness of our 

He received their remonstrances pleasantly, and 
even respectfully, without defending himself in any 
way, but, on the contrary, appearing to yield to 
their zeal, albeit somewhat sadly and unwillingly. 
Finding, however, that he did not begin to act upon 
their suggestions, as they had promised themselves 
he would do, some of them sent a written appeal 
to the Bishop, representing to him that he would 
have to recall the Provost and his companion 
missioners, who with their unwise and affected 
levity ruined in one day more souls than they 
themselves could convert in a month. 

They went on to compare the labour of the mis- 
sioners to Penelope’s web: to say that our Saint 
preached more like a Huguenot pastor than a 
Catholic Priest, and, in fine, that he went so far 
as to call the heretics his brethren, a thing so 
scandalous that the Protestants had already con- 
ceived great hope of bringing him over to their 
Own party. 

108 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

The good Bishop, however, better informed as 
to the real state of the case, paid little heed to this 
appeal, dictated by a bitter zeal, rather than by the 
(jue science of the Saints. Hes merely exhorted 
each one to persevere, and to remember that every 
spirit should praise the Lord according to the 
talents committed to it by God. 

Our Blessed Father, being informed of these 
complaints made against him to his Bishop, 
would not defend himself, but commended his 
cause to the judgment of God, and, silently 
but hopefully, awaited the result. Nor was his 
expectat‘on disappointed, for experience soon 
showed that the too ardent eagerness of these 
zealots was more likely to delay than to advance 
the work. 

To crown all this, the preachers who had objected 
to his method had ere long themselves to be set 
aside as unfit. 

On one occasion when I was talking with him 
and had turned the conversation on this subject, 
he said to me: ‘‘ These good people looked through 
coloured spectacles. They saw all things of the 
same hue as their own glasses. My predecessor 
soon found out who were the real hindrances to the 
conversion of the Protestant Cantons.” 

On my asking him how he could in reason apply 
the term ‘‘ brethren ’’ to persons who certainly are 
not such, since no one can have God for his Father 
who has not the Catholic Church for his mother, 
and since, therefore, those who are not in her bosom 
cannot be our brethren, he said to me: ‘‘ Ah! but 
I never call them brethren without adding the 
epithet erring, a word which marks the distinction 
with sufficient clearness. 

How Blessed Francis, ec. 109 

Besides, they are in fact our brethren by Bap- 
tism, which they duly administer and receive. 
Moreover, they are our brethren according to the 
flesh, for are we not all children of Adam? Then, 
too, we are fellow citizens, and subjects of the same 
earthly prince. Is not that enough to constitute a 
kind of fraternity between us? 

Lastly, I look upon them as children of the 
Church, at least in disposition, since they are will- 
ing to be instructed; and as my brethren in hope, 
since they also are called to inherit eternal life. 
In the early days of the Church it was customary 
to give the title of brethren to catechumens, even 
before their baptism.” 

These reasons satisfied me and made me esteem 
highly the ingenious method suggested to him by 
the Holy Spirit to render these unruly and untaught 
souls docile and tractable. 


Blessed Francis not only taught, but practised 
deference and a certain obedience towards his 
inferiors; towards his flock, towards his fellow 
citizens, and even towards his servants. He obeyed 
his body servant in what concerned his rising, his 
going to bed, and his toilet, as if he himself had 
been the valet and the other the master. 

When he sat up far into the night either to study 
or to write letters, he would beg his servant to go 
to bed, for fear of tiring him by keeping him wp. 
The man would grumble at his request, as if he 
were being taken for a lazy, sleepy-headed fellow. 
Our Blessed Father patiently put up with grum- 

110 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

blings of the sort, but would complete what he had 
in hand as quickly as possible, so as not to keep 
the man waiting. 

One summer morning Blessed Francis awoke 
very early, and, having some important matter on 
his mind, called this servant to bring him some 
necessaries for his toilet. The man, however, 
was too sound asleep to be roused by his master’s 
voice. The good Prelate therefore, on rising, 
looked into the adjoining room, thinking that the 
man must have left it, but finding him fast asleep, 
and fearing to do him harm by waking him sud- 
denly, dressed without his assistance and betook 
himself to his prayers, studies, and writing. Later 
the servant awoke, and dressed, and, coming to 
his master’s room, to his surprise found him deep 
in his studies. The man asked him abruptly how 
he had managed without him. ‘I fetched every- 
thing myself,” replied the holy Prelate. “Am I 
not old enough and strong enough for that?” 
‘“ Would it have been too much trouble to call 
me?’’ said the man grumblingly. ‘“‘ No, indeed, 
my child,” said Blessed Francis, ‘‘and I assure 
you that I did call you several times; but at last, 
thinking that you must have gone out, I got up 
to see where you were, and, finding you sleeping 
profoundly, I had not the heart to wake you.” 
“ You have the heart, it seems, to turn me into 
ridicule,” retorted the man. ‘‘ Oh, no, my friend,” 
said Francis. ‘‘I was only telling you what 
happened, without a thought of either blaming you 
or making fun of you. Come, I promise you that 
for the future I will never stop calling you till you 

Upon the way to treat servants 111 


His opinion was that masters, as a rule, commit 
many grave faults with regard to their servants, 
by treating them with harshness and severity. Such 
conduct is quite unworthy of christians, and, in 
them, worse even than the behaviour of pagans in 
olden times to their slaves. 

He himself never uttered an angry or threatening 
word to any one of his domestics. When they 
committed a fault, he corrected them so mildly that 
they were ready at once to make amends and to do 
better, out of love to their good master rather than 
from fear of him. 

Once, when I was talking to him on this subject, 
I quoted the saying that ‘‘ Familiarity breeds con- 
tempt, and contempt hatred.” ‘‘ Yes,” he said, 
‘improper familiarity, but never civil, cordial, 
kindly, virtuous familiarity; for as that proceeds 
from love, love engenders its like, and true love is 
never without esteem, nor, consequently, without 
respect for the object loved, seeing that love is 
founded wholly on the estimation in which the thing 
or person beloved is held. You know the saying 
of the ancient tyrant: Let them hate me, provided 
that they fear me. Speaking on this subject, we 
may well reverse the motto and say: Let them 
despise me, provided only that they love me. For 
if this contempt produces love, love after a while 
will stifle contempt, and sooner or later will in its 
place put respect; since there is no one that one 
reverences more, or has a greater fear of offending, 
than a person whom one loves in truth and sincerity 
of heart.” 

112 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

With regard to this, he told me a story. which he 
alludes to in his Philothea. Blessed Elzéar, Comte 
d’Arian, in Provence, was so exceedingly gentle in 
his treatment of his servants that they looked upon 
him as a person positively deficient in understand- 
ing, and behaved in his presence with the greatest 
incivility and insolence, knowing well his persever- 
ing tolerance of injuries and his boundless patience. 
His wife, the saintly Delphina, feeling more acutely 
than he the disrespectful conduct of their servants, 
complained of it to him, saying that the menials 
absolutely laughed in his face. ‘‘ And if they do,” 
he answered, ‘‘ why should I be put out by these 
little familiarities, pleasantries, and bursts of mer- 
riment, seeing that I am quite certain they do not 
hate me? They have not yet struck me, spat in 
my face, or offered me any of those indignities 
which Jesus Christ our Lord suffered at the hands 
of the high priest’s servants, and not alone from 
those who scourged Him, derided Him, and cruci- 
fied Him. Is it fitting that I, who glory in being 
the servant of Jesus Christ crucified, should desire 
to be better treated than my Master? Does it 
become a member to complain of any hardship 
under a Head wearing no crown but one of thorns? 
All that you tell me is but a mere jest compared 
with the insults heaped upon our divine Lord. 
The contempt of my servants—if, indeed, they do 
despise me—is a splendid lesson, teaching me to 
despise myself. How shall we practise humility if 
not on such occasions as these? ” 

Our Blessed Father went on to say: “I 
have proposed this example rather for your 
admiration than for your imitation, and that you 

Another instance, £c. 113 

may see of what means holy love makes use, in the 
hearts which are its own, in order to lead them to 
find rest in the very things which trouble those who 
are less devout. What I would say on the subject 
of servants is this; that, after all, they are our 
fellow-men and our humble brethren, whom charity 
obliges us to love as ourselves. Come, then, let 
us love them as ourselves, these dear yoke-fellows, 
who are so closely bound to us, who live under the 
same roof, and eat and drink of our substance. 
Let us treat them like ourselves, or as we should 
wish to be treated if we were in their place, and of 
their condition in life. That is the best way to deal 
with servants.’’ 


Like master, like man. Not only were all our 
Blessed Father’s servants virtuous (he would not 
have suffered any who were not, to form part of his 
household), but, following their master’s example, 
they were all singularly gentle and obliging in their 
manners and behaviour. 

One of them, a young man, handsome, virtuous, 
and pious, was greatly sought after by many of 
the citizens, who thought he would prove a most 
desirable son-in-law, and to this end they encour- 
aged his intercourse with their daughters. About 
the several advantageous matches proposed to him 
he always used to tell the Bishop. One day the 
latter said to him, ‘* My dear son, your soul is as 
dear to me as my own, and there is no sort of 
advantage that I do not desire for you and would 
not procure for you if I could. That you know 


14 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

very well, and you know, too, that it is possibly 
only your youth that dazzles the eyes of certain 
young girls and makes them want you for their 
husband; but I am of opinion that more age and 
| experience is needed before you take upon yourself 
the cares of a family. Think well over the matter, 
for when once embarked it will be too late to repent 
of what you have done. 

Marriage is an Order in which the profession 
must be made before the novitiate; if there were 
a year’s probation, as there is in the cloister, there 
would be very few professions. After all, what 
have I done to you to make you wish to leave me? 
I am old, I shall soon die, and then you can dispose 
of yourself as you please. I shall bequeath you 
to my brother, who will provide for you quite as 
advantageously as these proposed matches would 
have done.” 

He said this with tears in his eyes, which so 
distressed the young man that he threw himself 
at the Bishop’s feet, asking his pardon for having 
even thought of quitting him, and renewing his 
protestations of fidelity and of determination to 
serve him in life and death. 

““ No, no, my son,” he replied; “‘ I have no wish 
to interfere with your liberty. I would, on the 
contrary, purchase it, like St. Paul, at the cost of 
my own. But I am giving you friendly advice, 
such as I would offer to my own brother were he 
of your age.” And in very truth he treated the 
members of his household, not as servants, but 
as his brothers and children. He was their 
elder brother or their father, rather than their 

The holy Bishop never refused, dc. 115 


He practised to the letter the divine precept: 
Give to him who asketh of thee,* though, indeed, 
he possessed so few earthly goods that it was a 
standing marvel to me how he could give away as 
much as he did! Truly, I believe that God often 
multiplied the little which was really in his hands. 

As regards heavenly goods, he was lavish of 
them to all who came to him as petitioners. He 
never refused spiritual consolation or advice either 
in public or in private, and his readiness to supply 
abundantly and spontaneously this mystical bread 
of life and wisdom was surprising. His alertness 
when requested to preach was also peculiarly 
remarkable, as his action was naturally heavy, 
and his habit of thought, as well as his enunciation, 
somewhat slow. 

On one occasion, in Paris, he was asked to preach 
on a certain day, and readily consented to do so. 
One of his attendants then reminded him that he 
was engaged to preach elsewhere on the same day. 
‘“ No matter,” the Bishop replied, ‘‘ God will give 
us grace to multiply our bread. He is rich towards 
all who invoke Him.’’+ His servant next remarked 
that some care was surely due to his health. 
“ What!” exclaimed Blessed Francis, ‘‘ do you 
think that if God gives us the grace to find matter 
for preaching, He will not at the same time take 
care of the body, the organ by means of which His 
doctrine is proclaimed? Let us put our trust in 
Him, and He will give us all the strength we need.” 

*Matt. v. 3% tRom. x. 12. 

116 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

‘ But,” objected the other, ‘‘ does God forbid us 
to take care of our health ? ” 

“ By no means,’’ answered the Bishop; ‘‘ but 
He does forbid a want of confidence in His good- 
ness . . . and,” he added seriously and firmly, 
‘“were I requested to preach a third sermon on that 
same day, it would cost me less both in mind and 
body to consent than to refuse. Should we not 
be ready to sacrifice, and even, as it were, 
to obliterate ourselves, body and soul, for the 
benefit of that dear neighbour of ours whom our 
Lord loved so much as even to die for him? ” 


Our Blessed Father had, as we know, so high 
an idea of the virtue of charity, which, indeed, he 
said was only christian perfection under another 
name, that he disliked to hear almsgiving called 
charity. It was, he said, like putting a royal crown 
on the head of a village maiden. 

In answer to my objection that this was actually 
the case with Esther, who, though only a slave, 
was chosen by Assuerus to be his queen, and 
crowned by his royal hand, he replied: “ You only 
strengthen my argument, for Esther would have 
remained in her state of servitude had she not be- 
come the spouse of Assuerus, and, queen though 
she was, she only wore her crown dependently on 
his will and pleasure. So almsgiving is only pleas- 
ing to God, and worthy of its reward, the heavenly 
crown of justice, in as far as it proceeds from 
charity, and is animated by that royal gift which 
converts it into an infused and supernatural virtue, 
which may be called either almsgiving in charity 

Upon Almsgiving 117 

or charitable almsgiving. But, just as the two 
natures, the divine and the human, were not merged 
in one another in the mystery of the Incarnation, 
although joined in the unity of the hypostasis of 
the Word, so this conjunction of charity with alms- 
giving, or this subordination of almsgiving to 
charity, does not change the one into the other, 
the object of each being as different as is the Creator 
from the creature. For the object of almsgiving 
is the misery of the needy which it tries as far as 
possible to relieve, and that of charity is God, Who 
is the sovereign Good, worthy to be loved above 

all things for His own sake.’’ ‘‘ But,’’ I said, 
“when almsgiving is practised for the love of God, 
can we not then call it charity?” ‘‘ No,” he 

replied, ‘‘ not any more than you can call Esther 
Assuerus, and Assuerus Esther. But you can, 
as I have said above, call it alms given in charity, 
or charitable almsgiving. 

Almsgiving and charity are quite different, for 
not only may alms be given without charity, but 
even against charity, as when they are given know- 
ing they will lead to sin.” 

In a remarkable passage in Theotimus the Saint 
asks: “‘ Were there not heretics, who, to exalt 
charity towards the poor, deprecated charity to- 
wards God, ascribing man’s whole salvation to 
almsdeeds, as St. Augustine witnesses ? ’’* 


Our Blessed Father was always full of tender- 
ness, compassion, and gentleness towards sinners, 
but he regarded and treated them in different 

Love of God. B. xi. c. 14. 

118 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

ways according to their various dispositions. 

A sinner who had grown old in evil, who clung 
obstinately to his wicked ways, who laughed to 
scorn all remonstrances, and gloried in his shame, 
formed a spectacle so heart-breaking and so appall- 
ing to the holy Bishop, that he shrank from con- 
templating it. When he had succeeded in turning 
his thoughts to some other subject, on their being 
suddenly recalled to it, he would shudder as if a 
secret wound had been touched, and utter some 
devout and fervent ejaculation such as this: ‘‘ Ah! 
Lord, command that this blind man see! 
Speak the word only, and he shall be healed! 
Oh, my God, those who forsake Thee shall be 
forsaken ; convert him, and he shall be converted ! ”’ 

With obstinate sinners of this class his patience 
was unwearied. For such, he said, God Himself 
waited patiently, even until the eleventh hour; 
adding that impatience was more likely to embitter 
them and retard their conversion than remonstrance 
to edify them. 

For the sinner who was more open to conviction, 
and was not so obstinate in his malice, for him 
who had, that is to say, lucid intervals in his mad- 
ness, Blessed Francis had the most tender affection, 
regarding him as a poor paralytic waiting on the 
edge of the pool of healing for some helping hand 
to plunge him into it. To such he behaved as did 
the good shepherd of the Gospel, Who left the 
ninety-nine sheep in the desert to seek after the 
hundredth which had gone astray. 

But towards the sinner when once converted, 
how describe his attitude of mind! He 
regarded him not as a brand snatched from 

. Our Saint's hopefulness, ke. 119 

the burning, not as a bruised reed, not as an 
extinguished taper that was still smoking, but as 
a sacred vessel filled with the oil of grace, as one 
of those trees which the ancients looked upon as 
holy because they had been struck by fire from 
Heaven. It was marvellous to observe the honour 
which he paid to such a one, the esteem in which 
he held him, the praises which he bestowed upon 

He always considered that souls delivered by God 
from the mouth of the roaring lion were in con- 
sequence likely to be more vigilant, more courage- 
ous in resisting temptation, and more careful in 
guarding against relapses. 

He did all he could to cover the faults of others, 
his goodness of heart being so great that he never 
allowed himself to think ill even of the wicked. He 
attributed their sinfulness to the violence of tempta- 
tion and the infirmity of human nature. When 
faults were public and so manifest that they could 
not be excused, he would say: ‘‘ Who knows but 
that the unhappy soul will be converted? The 
greatest sinners often become the greatest penitents, 
as we see in the case of David. And who are we 
that we should judge our brother? Were it not 
for the grace of God we should perhaps do worse 
than he.” 

He never allowed the conversion of a sinner to 
be despaired of, hoping on till death. ‘‘ This life,” 
he said, “‘ is our pilgrim way, in which those who 
now stand may fall, and those who have fallen 
may, by grace, be set on their feet again.” Nor 
even after death would he tolerate an unfavourable 
judgment being passed on any. 

120 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

His reason for this was that as the original grace 
of justification was not given by way of merit, so 
neither could the grace of final perseverance be 

With regard to this subject he related to me an 
amusing incident which occurred whilst he was a 
missioner in the Chablais. Amongst the Priests 
and Religious who were sent to help him was one 
of a humorous temperament, and who did not 
hesitate to show that he was so, even in the pulpit. 
One day, when preaching before our Blessed 
Prelate against the heresiarch* who had raised the 
standard of revolt in Geneva, he said that we should 
never condemn any one as lost after death, except 
such as are by Scripture denounced; no, not even 
the said heresiarch who had caused so much evil 
by his errors. ‘‘ For,” he went on to say, ‘‘ who 
knows but that God may have touched his heart 
at the last moment and converted him? It is true 
that out of the Church and without the true faith 
there is no salvation; but who can say that he did 
not at the moment of death wish to be reunited 
with the Catholic Church, from which he had 
separated himself, and acknowledge in his heart 
the truth of the belief he had combated, and that 
thus he did not die sincerely repentant? ”” 

After having surprised the congregation by these 
remarks, he most unexpectedly concluded by say- 
ing: “ We must certainly entertain sentiments of 
boundless confidence in the goodness of God, Who 
is infinite in mercy to those who invoke Him. Jesus 
Christ even offered His peace, His love, and His 
salvation to the traitor Judas, who betrayed Him 


Blessed Francis’ solicitude, &c. 131 

by a kiss. Why, then, may He not have offered 
the same favour to this unhappy heresiarch? Is 
the arm of God shortened? 

Yet, my brethren, he continued, “‘ believe me, 
and I assure you I lie not, if this man is not damned 
he has had the narrowest escape man ever had; and 
if he has been saved from eternal wreck, he owes 
to God the handsomest votive candle that a person 
of his condition ever offered! ” 

As you may imagine, this finale did not draw 
many tears from the audience! 


He often went to carry consolation to prisoners, 
and sometimes accompanied condemned criminals 
to the place of execution, that he might help them 
to make a good death. 

At such times, too, he kept to the methods we 
have already described as used by him in his visiting 
of the rest of the dying. After having made them 
unburden their conscience, he left them a little 
breathing space, and then at intervals suggested 
to them acts of faith, hope, and charity, of repent- 
ance, of resignation to the Will of God, and of 
abandonment to His mercy; not adding to their 
sufferings by importunity, long harangues, or end- 
less exhortations. 

So happily did the Blessed Prelate succeed in 
this method of treatment, that sometimes the poor 
criminals whom he accompanied to their execution 
went to it as to a marriage feast, with joy and peace, 
such as they had never experienced in the whole 

122 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

course of their lawless and sinful lives, happier far 
so to die than to live on as they had done. “‘ It is,” 
he would say to them, “‘by lovingly kissing the 
feet of God’s justice that we most surely reach the 
embrace of His tender mercy. 

Above all things, we must be confident that 
they who trust in Him shall never be confounded.” 


Blessed Francis’ extreme gentleness always led 
him to lean towards indulgent judgment, however 
slight in a particular case the apparent justification 
might be. 

On one occasion there was a discussion in his 
presence as to the meaning of those terrible words 
in the Gospel: Many are called, but few chosen.* 
Some one said that the chosen were called 
a little flock, whereas the unwise or reprobates were 
spoken of as many in number, and so on. He 
replied that, in his opinion, there would be very 
few christians (meaning, of course, those who are 
in the true Church, outside which there is no salva- 
tion) who would be lost, “‘ because,’’ he said, 
‘““ having the root of the true faith, the tree that 
springs from it would sooner or later bear its fruit, 
which is salvation, and awakening, as it were, from 
death to life, they would become, through charity, 
active and rich in good works.”’ 

When asked what, then, was the meaning of the 
statement in the Gospel as to the small number of 
the elect, he replied that in comparison with the rest 
of the world, and with infidel nations, the number 
of christians was very small, but that of that small 

*Matt. xx. 16. 

To love to be hated, dc. p23 

number very few would be lost, in conformity to 
that striking text, There is no condemnation for 
those that are in Christ Jesus.* Which really 
means that justifying grace is always being offered 
them, and this grace is inseparable from a lively 
faith and a burning charity. Add to this that 
He who begins the work in us is He who likewise 
perfects it. We may believe that the call to 
christianity, which is the work of God, is always 
a perfect work, and therefore leads of itself to the 
end of all perfection, which is heavenly glory. 


This maxim of our Blessed Father’s seems 
strange and altogether contrary to his sweet and 
affectionate nature. 

If, however, we look closely into it, we shall find 
that it is full of the purest and most subtle love of 

When he said that we ought to love to be hated, 
and hate to be loved, he was referring in the one case 
to the love which is in and for God alone, and in 
the other to that merely human love, which is full 
of danger, which robs God of His due, and of 
which, therefore, we should hate to be the object. 
He expresses himself thus : 

‘“ Those who have nothing naturally attractive 
about them are very fortunate, for they are well 
assured that the love which one bears them is excel- 
lent, being all for God’s sake alone.’’ 

Blessed Francis always said that the excellence 

Rom. viii. I. 

124 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

of obedience consists not in doing the will of 
a gentle, courteous superior, who commands rather 
by entreaty than as one having authority, but in 
bowing the neck beneath the yoke of one who is 
harsh, stern, imperious, severe. He was, it is true, 
desirous that those who had to judge and direct 
souls should do so as fathers rather than as masters, 
as, indeed, he did himself, but at the same time 
he wished those in authority to be somewhat strict, 
and those subject to them to be less sensitive and 
selfish, and consequently less impatient, less refrac- 
tory, and less given to grumbling than most men 

He used also to say that a rough file takes off 
more rust and polishes iron better than a smooth 
and less biting one, and that very many and very 
heavy blows of the hammer are needed to temper 
a keen sword blade. 

“But,’? I said to him, when discussing this 
subject, ‘‘as the most perfect obedience is that 
which springs from love, ought not the command 
to be given lovingly, so as to incite the subordinate 
to a loving obedience?’ He answered: ‘‘ There 
is a great deal of difference between the excellence 
of obedience and its perfection. 
| The excellence of a virtue has to do with its 
nature; its perfection with the grace, or charity, in 
which it is clothed. Now, here I am not speaking 
of the supernatural perfection of obedience which 
emanates most assuredly from the love of God; but 
of its natural excellence, which is better tested by 
harsh than by gentle commands. 

Excessive indulgence on the part of parents 
and superiors is only too often the cause of many 

Upon Obedience 125 

‘“ More than this, even as regards the super- 
natural perfection of obedience, it is very probable 
that the harshness of the command given helps 
its growth, and renders our love of God, which is 
our motive in obeying, stronger, firmer, and more 
generous. When a superior commands with over- 
much gentleness and circumspection, besides the 
fact that he compromises his authority and causes 
it to be slighted, he so attracts and attaches his 
inferior to himself that often unconsciously he robs 
God of the devotedness which is His due. The 
result is that the inferior obeys the man whom he 
loves, and because he loves him, rather than God 
in the man, and for the love of God alone. 

On the other hand, harshness tests far better the 
fidelity of a heart which loves God sincerely. For, 
finding nothing pleasing in the command except 
the sweetness of divine love, to which alone it yields 
obedience, the perfection of that obedience becomes 
the greater, since the intention is purer, more direct, 
and more immediately turned to God. It was in 
this spirit that David said that, for the sake of the 
words of God—that is, of His law—he had kept 
hard ways.’’* Our Blessed Father added this 
simile to explain his meaning further : 

‘“Obeying a harsh, irritating, and vexatious 
superior is like drawing clear water from a spring 
which flows through the jaws of a lion of bronze. 
It is like the riddle of Samson, Out of the eater 
came forth meat; it is hearing God’s voice, and 
seeing God’s will alone in that of a superior, even 
if the command be, asin the case of St. Peter, Kill 

*PSaim. xè" 4. 

126 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

and eat ;* it is to say with Job, Although He should 
kill me, I will trust in Him.” +t 


Asking him one day if it was possible for persons 
in authority, whether in the world or in the cloister, 
to practise the virtue of obedience, he replied: 
‘Certainly, and they can do so far more perfectly 
and more heroically than their subjects.” 

Then, seeing my astonishment at this apparent 
paradox, he went on to explain it in the following 
manner: ‘* Those who are obliged either by precept 
or by vow, which takes the place of precept, to 
practise obedience, are, as a rule, subject only to 
one superior. ‘Those, on the other hand, who are 
in authority, are free to obey more widely, and 
to obey even in commanding, because if they con- 
sider that it is God Who puts them over the heads 
of the others, and Who commands them to com- 
mand those others, who does not see that even 
their commanding is an act of obedience? This 
kind of obedience may even be practised by princes 
who have none but God set over them, and who 
have to render an account of their actions to Him 
alone. I may add that there is no power on earth 
so sublime as not to have, at least in some respects, 
another set over it. Christian kings render filial 
obedience to the Roman Pontiff, and the sovereign 
Pontiff himself submits to his confessor in the 
Sacrament of Penance. But there is a still higher 
degree of obedience*which even Prelates and the 
greatest among men may practise. It is that which 

*Acts x. 1g. fJob xri. as 

An instance of our Saints Obedience 127 

the Apostle counsels when he says: Be ye subject 
to every human creature for God’s sake.* Who 
for love of us not only became subject to the 
Blessed Virgin and to St. Joseph, but made Him- 
self obedient to death and to the death of the Cross, 
submitting Himself in His Passion to the most sin- 
ful and degraded of the earth, uttering not a cry, 
even as a lamb under the hand of him who shears 
it and slays it. It is by this universal obedience 
to every creature that we become all things to all 
men in order that we may win all to Jesus Christ. 
It is by this that we take our neighbour, whoever 
he may be, for our superior, becoming servants 
for our Lord’s sake.” 


On one occasion, when the Duke of Savoy, being 
pressed by many urgent public needs, had obtained 
from the Pope a Brief empowering him to levy 
contributions on the Church property in his 
dominions, Blessed Francis, finding some slack- 
ness and unwillingness on the part of the beneficed 
clergy of the diocese to yield obedience to this 
order, when he had called them together to settle 
what was to be done, spoke with just indignation. 
“ What! gentlemen,” he cried, ‘‘is it for us to 
question and reason when two sovereigns concur 
in issuing the same command? Is it for us, I say, 
to scrutinize their counsels, and ask, Why are you 
acting thus? Not only to the decrees of sovereign 
courts, but even to the sentence of the most insig- 
nificant judges appointed by God to decide differ- 
ences in our affairs, we yield deference so far as 

*, Peter ii. 13. 

128 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

not to enquire into the motive of their decisions. 
And here, where two oracles who have only to 
render account to God of what orders they give, 
speak, we set to work to enquire into their motives 
and reasons as if we were charged to inves- 
tigate their conduct. Assuredly, I will take no 
part in such doings. Our virtue, indeed, lags sadly 
behind that of those christians—only lay people 
too—of whom St. Paul said that being wise them- 
selves they gladly suffered bondage, stripes, every 
sort of ill-usage from the foolish,* and of whom, 
in another place, he says that they took with joy 
the being stripped of their own goods, knowing 
that they had a better and a lasting substance.f 
And the Apostle, as you know, is speaking to men 
who had been unjustly despoiled of their whole 
property by robbers and tyrants, whereas you will 
not give up a small fraction of yours to assist in 
the public need of our good Prince, to whose zeal 
we owe the re-establishment of the Catholic religion 
in the three divisions of the Chablais, and whose 
enemies are the adversaries of our faith! Is not 
our Order the first of the three estates in a christian 
kingdom? Is there anything more just than to 
contribute of our wealth, together with our prayers, 
towards the defence of our altars, of our lives, and 
of our peace? The people are lavishing their sub- 
stance and the nobility their blood for the same 
cause. Remember the late wars, and tremble lest 
your ingratitude and disobedi nce should plunge 
you again into similar troubles.” 

Adding example to precept, he paid so heavy a 
tax upon a part of his own revenue that none could 

*2 Cor. Xl. GQ, 20ra epee 

Upon the love of holy poverty 129 

say he did not practise what he preached, and all 
those who had ventured to oppose him in the matter 
were not only effectually silenced, but covered with 
confusion and put to a just shame. 


Godliness with contentment, says Holy Scripture, 
is great gain.* 

So content was the godliness of Blessed Francis 
that, although deprived of the greater part of his 
episcopal revenues, he was fully satisfied with the 
little that was left to him. 

After all, he would say, are not twelve hundred 
crowns a handsome income for a Bishop? The 
Apostles, who were far better Bishops than we are, 
had nothing like that sum. It is not for us to fix 
our own pay for serving God. 

His love of poverty was truly striking. At 
Annecy he lodged in a hired house, which was both 
handsome and roomy, and in which the apartments 
assigned to him as Bishop were very elegantly 
furnished. He, however, took up his abode in an 
uncomfortable little room, where there was hardly 
any light at all, so that he could truly say with 
Job: I have made my bed in darkness ;} or with 
David: Night shall be my light in my pleasures ;t 
or again, I am like a night raven in the house, or as 
a sparrow all alone on the housetop.§ 

He called this little room, or, to speak more truly, 
this sepulchre of a living man, Francis’ chamber, 
while to that in which he received visitors, or gave 
audience, he gave the name of the Bishop’s cham- 

71 Tim. vi. 6. tJob. xvii. 13. [Ps. cxxxviii. 11, §Ps. ci. 8. 

130 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

Truly, the lover of holy poverty can always find a 
means of practising it, even in the midst of riches. 

Blessed Francis, indeed, always welcomed 
poverty with a smiling countenance, though natu- 
rally it be apt to cast a gloom and melancholy upon 
the faces both of those who endure it and of those 
who only dread it. 

Involuntary poverty is surly and discontented, for 
it is forced and against the will. Voluntary 
poverty, on the contrary, is joyous, free, and light- 
hearted. To show you how cheerfully and plea- 
santly he talked on this subject, I will give you one 
or two of his remarks. 

Once, showing mea coat which had been patched 
up for him, and which he wore under his cassock, 
he said: ‘“ My people really work little miracles; 
for out of an old garment they have made me this 
perfectly new coat. Am I not well-dressed ? ” 

Again, when his steward was complaining of 
down-right distress, and of there being no money 
left, he said: ‘“ What are you troubling yourself 
about? We are now more like our Master, Who 
had not even where to lay His head, though as yet 
we are not reduced to such extreniity as that.” 
“ But what are we to do? ”’ persisted the steward. 
‘“ My son,” the Bishop answered, “‘ we must live as 
we can, on whatever goods we have, that is all.” 
‘“Truly,’’ replied the other, “it is all very well to 
talk of living on our goods when there are none left 
to live upon!’ “ You do not understand me,” 
returned the Bishop; ‘‘ we must sell or pledge some 
of our furniture in order to live. Will not that, my 
good M.R.,* be living on our goods?” 

*Georges Roland. 

Upon the love of holy poverty 131 

It was in this fashion that the Saint was accus- 
tomed to meet cheerfully money troubles, so unbear- 
able to weaker characters. 

On one occasion I expressed my admiration at his 
being able to make so good a show on his small 
means. ‘‘It is God,” he said, “Who multiplies 
the five loaves.” On my pressing him to tell me 
how it was done, “‘ Why, it would not be a 
miracle,” he answered, with a smile, ‘‘ if we knew 
that. Are we not most fortunate to live on only by 
help of miracles? It is the mercy of God that we 
are not consumed.’ ‘‘ You go quite beyond me,” 
I said, “by taking that ground. I am not so 
transcendently wise.”’ 

“ Listen,” he replied. ‘‘ Riches are truly thorns, 
as the Gospel teaches us. They prick us with a 
thousand troubles in acquiring them, with more 
cares in preserving them, and with yet more anxie- 
ties in spending them; and, most of all, with vexa- 
tions in losing them. 

“ After all, we are only managers and stewards, 
especially if it is a question of the riches of the 
Church, which are the true patrimony of the poor. 
The important matter is to find faithful dispensers. 
Having sufficient to feed and clothe ourselves suit- 
ably, what more do we want? Assuredly, that 
which is over and above these is of evil.* 

‘* Shall I tell you what my own feeling is? Well 
and good, but I must do so in your ear. I know 
very well how to spend what I have; but if I had 
more I should be in difficulty as to what to do with 
it. Am I not happy to live like a child without 
care? Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof. 

*Matt. v. 37. 

1382 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

The more any one has to manage the longer the 
account he has to render. We must make use of 
this world as though we were making no use of it at 
all. We must possess riches as though we had 
them not, and deal with the things of earth like the 
dogs on the banks of the Nile, who, for fear of the 
crocodiles, lap up the water of the river as they 
run along its banks. If, as the wise man tells us, 
he that addeth knowledge addeth also labour; much 
more 1s this the case with the man who heaps up 
riches. He is like the giants in the fable who piled 
up mountains, and then buried themselves. under 
them. Remember the miserable man who, as the 
Gospel tells us, thought that he had many years 
before him in which to live at his ease, but to whom 
the heavenly vioce said: Thou fool, this night do 
they require thy soul of thee; and whose shall those 
things be which thou hast proided? In truth 
happy is he only who lays up imperishable trea- 
sures in Heaven.”’ 

He would never allow himself to be called poor; 
saying, that any one who had a revenue sufficient to 
live upon without being obliged to labour with head 
or hands to support himself should be called rich; 
and such, he said, was the case with us both. 

To my objection that our revenues were neverthe- 
less so very small that we must be really considered 
poor, for little, indeed, must we be working if our 
labour was not worth what we got from our bishop- 
rics, he replied: “‘ If you take it in this way you are 
not so far wrong, for who is there who labours in a 
vineyard and does not live upon its produce? What 
shepherd feeds his flock and does not drink its milk 

Upon the love of holy poverty 133 

and clothe himself with its wool? So, too, may he 
who sows spiritual seed justly reap the small har- 
vest which he needs for his temporal sustenance. 
If then he is poor who lives by work, and who eats 
the fruit of his labour, we may very well be reckoned 
as such; but if we regard the degree of poverty in 
which our Lord and His Apostles lived, we must 
perforce consider ourselves rich. After all, possess- 
ing honestly all that is necessary for food and 
clothing, ought we not to be content? Whatever is 
more than this is only evil, care, superfluity, want- 
ing which we shall have less of an account to render. 
Happy is poverty, said a stoic, if it is cheerful 
poverty ; and if it is that, it is really not poverty at 
all, or only poverty of a kind that is far preferable 
to the riches of the most wealthy, which are 
amassed with difficulty, preserved with solicitude, 
and lost with regret.” 

Our Saint used to say that, as for the cravings of 
nature, he who is not satisfied with what is really 
enough will never be satisfied. I wish that I could 
give any just idea of his extraordinary moderation 
even in the use of the necessaries of life. He told 
me once that when the time came for him to lay 
down the burden of his episcopal duties and to 
retire into solitude, there to pass the rest of his life 
in contemplation and study, he should consider five 
hundred crowns a year great wealth; in fact, he 
would not reserve more from either his patrimony 
or his Bishop’s revenue, adding these words of St. 
Paul: Having food, and wherewith to be covered, 
let us (priests) be content.* He gave this as his 
reason. ‘*‘ The Church,” he said, ‘‘ which is the 

*Tim. vi. 8. 

134 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

kingdom of Jesus Christ, is established on founda- 
tions directly opposed to those of the world, of which 
our Saviour said His kingdom was not. Now, on 
what is the kingdom of this world founded? Listen 
to St. John: All that is in the world is the con- 
cupiscence of the flesh, or of the eyes, and the 
pride of life; that is to say, the pleasures of the 
senses, avarice, and vanity. The Church then will 
be founded on mortification of the flesh, poverty, 
and humility. Pleasures and honours follow in the 
train of wealth; but poverty puts an axe to the roots 
of pride and sensual enjoyments. Some, says 
David, blaming them, glory in the multitude of 
their riches; and St. Paul exhorts the rich of this 
world not to be high-minded. 

It is a perilous thing for humility and mortifica- 
tion to take up their abode with wealth.’’ This is 
why he wished for nothing but bare necessaries, 
fearing that superfluity might lead him into some 

When I reminded him that if we had this super- 
fluity we might give alms out of it, as it is written, 
Of what remaineth give to the poor, he replied, that 
we knew well enough what we ought to do; but that 
we did not know what we should do, and that it was 
always a species of presumption to imagine our- 
selves able to handle live coals without burning our- 
selves, seeing that even the Angel in the vision of 
the Prophet took them up with tongs! 


Our Blessed Father was so absolutely indifferent 
to the goods of this world that I never heard him 

Upon the same subject 135 

so much as once complain of the loss of almost all 
his episcopal revenue, confiscated by the city of 
Geneva. He used to say that it was very much with 
the wealth of the Church as with a man’s beard, the 
more closely it was clipped the stronger and the 
thicker it grew again. When the Apostles had 
nothing they possessed all things, and when eccle- 
Siastics wish to possess too much, that too much is 
reduced to nothing. 

His one hunger and thirst was for the conversion 
of souls, living in wilful blindness to the light of 
truth which shines only in the one true Church. 
Sometimes, he exclaimed, sighing heavily: “‘ Give 
me souls, and the rest take to Thyself.’ Speaking 
of Geneva, to which city, in spite of its rebellion, he 
always applied terms of compassion and affection, 
such as ‘‘ my dear Geneva,’’ or ‘‘ my poor Geneva,” 
he said to me more than once: ‘‘ Would to God 
that these gentlemen had taken such small remains 
of my revenue as they have left to me, and that we 
had only as small a foothold in that deplorable city 
as the Catholics have in La Rochelle, namely, a 
little chapel in which to say Mass and perform the 
functions of our religion! You would then soon 
see all these apostates come back to their senses, 
and we should rejoice over the return to the Church 
of these poor Sunamites, who are so forgetful of 
their duty.’’* This fond hope he always nourished 
in his breast. 

He used to say that Henry VIII. of England, 
who at the beginning of his reign was so zealous 
for the Catholic faith, and wrote so splendidly 
against the errors of Luther, that he acquired for 

*Cantic vi. 12. 

136 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

that reason the glorious title of Defender of the 
Faith, having, by yielding to his passion, caused so 
great a schism in his kingdom, even had he desired 
at the close of his life to return to the bosom of the 
Church which he had so miserably abandoned, 
would, on setting to work to attain this most happy 
end, have found the impossibility of recovering 
for the clergy and restoring to them the property 
and wealth which he had divided among his nobles, 
a serious difficulty. 

‘Alas!’ our Blessed Father exclaimed, com- 
menting upon this fact, ‘‘to think that a handful 
of dust should rob Heaven of so many souls! The 
business of every christian, and especially of the 
clergy, is the keeping of God’s law. The Lord is 
the portion of their inheritance and of their cup. 
He would have made to them an abundant restitu- 
tion of all that had been theirs, by gentle but effec- 
tive means. They whose thoughts are fixed upon 
the Lord will be nourished by Him. The just are 
never forsaken nor reduced to beg their bread; they 
have only to lift their eyes and their hopes to God 
and He will give them meat in due season; for it is 
He who gives food to all flesh. Moreover, it is 
much easier to suffer hunger with patience than to 
preserve virtue in the midst of plenty. It is not 
every one who can say with the Apostle: I know 
how to abound, and I know how to suffer need.* A 
thousand fall on the left hand of adversity, but ten 
thousand on the right hand of prosperity; for 
iniquity is the outcome of luxury, and the sin of the 
cities of the plain had its origin in a superabundance 
of bread; that is to say, in their wealth. To be 

*Philipp. iv. 12. 

Upon poverty of spirit 137 

frugal and devout is to possess a great treasure.” 


Three virtues, he said, were necessary to consti- 
tute poverty of spirit: simpilcity, humility, and 
christian poverty. Simplicity consists in that single- 
ness of aim which looks only to God, referring to 
Him alone those innumerable opportunities which 
come to us from objects other than Himself. 
Humility is that conviction of our own inferiority 
and destitution which makes the truly humble man 
regard himself as always an unprofitable servant. 
Chrstian poverty is of three kinds. First, that 
which is affective, but not effective. This can be 
practised in the midst of wealth, as in the case of 
Abraham, David, St. Louis, and many other holy 
persons, who, though rich in this world?s goods, 
were ready in a moment to accept poverty with 
cheerfulness and thankfulness if it should please 
God to send it to them. 

Second, effective but not affective poverty, which 
is a very unhappy condition. Those who are 
weighed down by it feel all its distressing con- 
sequences and are miserable because they cannot 
possess the many things which they ardently 

Third, affective, united with effective poverty, 
which is recommended in the Gospels, and which 
may happen to be our lot, either from birth or from 
some reverse of fortune. 

If we are reconciled to our condition in life, how- 
ever humble, and bless God Who has placed us in 
it, then we tread in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, 

188 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

of His holy Mother, and of the Apostles, who 
all lived a life of poverty. 

Another way of practising this poverty is to follow 
the counsels of Jesus Christ, Who bids us sell all 
that we have and give it to the poor, imitating our 
divine Master in that poverty which He embraced 
for us, that we, through it, might be made rich. 
And never is this command more practically and 
worthily obeyed than when the man who has aban- 
doned all his worldly goods for the sake of Christ, 
labours, not only in order to sustain his own life, 
but that he may have the wherewithal to give 

Thus did the Apostle glory when he said: For 
such things as were needful for me, and them that 
are with me, these hands have furnished.* 


To love our neighbour is not only to wish him 
well, but also to do him all the good that it is in our 
power to do. If we fall short of this, we deserve 
the reproach of St. James, addressed to those who, 
though they have ample means for giving material 
aid to the poor, content themselves with bare words 
of comfort. 

The love of Blessed Francis for the poor was so 
intense that in their case he seemed to become a 
respecter of persons, preferring them to the rich, 
both in spiritual and in temporal matters. He was 
like a good physician who in visiting the sick shows 
the most tender solicitude for those afflicted with 
the most terrible diseases and lingers longest by 

their bedsides. 
*ActS xx. 34. 

Upon the christian view of Poverty 139 

One day I had to wait my turn to go to confession 
to him for a very long time, he being engaged in 
hearing a poor blind beggar woman. When I 
afterwards expressed my surprise at the length of 
her confession, he said: ‘‘ Ah! She sees far more 
clearly the way to go to God than many whose eye- 
sight is otherwise perfect.’’ 

On another occasion, sailing with him on the 
lake of Geneva, I heard the boatman calling him 
‘“ Father,” and addressing him with corresponding 
familiarity. ‘‘ Listen,” he said to me, ‘“‘ to those 
good people. They are calling me their Father; 
and, indeed, I do believe they love me as such. 
Oh! how much more real happiness they give me 
than those who call me ‘ My Lord.’ ”’ 


On one occasion I quoted that saying of Seneca: 
‘“He is truly great who dines off earthenware as 
contentedly as if it were silver; but he is greater still 
who dines off silver with as much indifference as if 
it were earthenware.’’ 

‘“ The philosopher,” he said, ‘‘is right in his 
judgment; for the first feasts on mere fancy, leading 
to vanity; but the second shows that he is superior 
to wealth, since he cares no more for a precious metal 
than for clay. 

Yet, Oh! how ridiculous; how empty is all mere 
human philosophy! This same philosopher who 
speaks so eloquently again and again of the con- 
tempt of riches, was all his life immersed in them; 
and at his death left thousands behind him. Does 
it not seem to you that, this being his own case, 
his talking about poverty makes him like a cleric 

140 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

expatiating on the art of war? We had far better 
listen to St. Paul, who speaks as a past master on 
the subject of poverty, since he practised it so 
thoroughly that he chose rathér to live on what he 
could earn by the labour of his hands than on what 
the preaching of the Gospel might bring in to him, 
as to the other Apostles. Yes, we must needs listen 
to and believe St. Paul when he says that he esteems 
all things as dung in comparison with the service 
of Jesus Christ, counting as loss what he once held 
as gain.”* 
Blessed Francis objected strongly to the use of the 

word fortune, considering it unworthy of utterance 
by christian lips. The expressions ‘‘ fortunate,” “‘by 

good fortune,” ‘‘ children of fortune,” all common 
enough, were repugnant to him. ‘* I am aston- 
ished,’’ he said once, ‘‘ that Fortune, the most 

pagan of idols, should have been left standing, 
when chrisianity so completely demolished all the 
rest! God forbid that any who ought to be the 
children of God’s providence alone become children 
of fortune! and that those whose only hope should 
be in Him put their trust in the uncertainty of 
niches! °’ 

He spoke yet more strongly of such as professing 
to be nailed with Jesus Christ to the Cross and to 
glory only in His reproaches and sufferings, yet 
were eager in heaping up riches, and, when amassed, : 
in clinging fondly to them. ‘‘ For,” he said, ‘* the 
Gospel makes christian blessedness to consist in 
poverty, contempt, pain, weeping, and persecu- 
tions; and even philosophy teaches us that pros- 

*Philipp. iii. 8. 

Upon Prosperity 141 

perity is the stepmother of true virtue, adversity 
its mother !”’ 

I asked him once how it was that we are so ready 
to have recourse to God when the thorn of affliction 
pierces us, and so eager in asking for deliverance 
from sickness, calumny, famine, and such like mis- 
fortunes. ‘‘ It is,’’ he said, ‘f our weakness which 
thus cries out for help, and it is a proof of the in- 
firmity which encompasses us; for as the best and 
firmest fish feed in the salt waters of the open sea, 
those which are caught in fresh water being less 
pleasing to the taste, so the most generous natures 
find their element in crosses and afflictions, while 
meaner spirits are only happy in prosperity. 

Moreover,” he continued, ‘‘it is much easier 
to love God perfectly in adversity than in prosperity. 
For tribulation having nothing in itself that is lov- 
able, save that it is God’s gift, it is much easier to 
go by it straight to the will of God, and to unite 
ourselves to His good pleasure. Easier, I say, than 
by prosperity, which has attractions of its own that 
captivate our senses, and, like Dalila, lull them to 
sleep, working in us a subtle change, so that we 
begin insensibly to love for its own sake the 
prosperity which God sends us, instead of bestow- 
ing all our grateful love on God Who sends it, and 
to Whom all thanks and praise are due! ” 


Feeling at one time troubled and perplexed in 
mind as to the bearing of these two virtues upon 
one another, and as to the right manner of prac- 
tising each, so that one should never run counter 
to the other, I carried my difficulties to our Blessed 

142 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

Father, who settled them at once in the following 
words: “*‘ We must,’ he said, “in this matter 
draw a careful distinction between persons who 
Occupy positions of dignity and authority, and 
have the care of others, and those private indi- 
viduals who have no one to look after but them- 
selves. The former must deliver their chastity 
into the keeping of their charity; and if that 
charity is real and true it will not fail them, but 
will serve as a strong wall of defence, both without 
and within, to their chastity. On the other hand, 
private individuals will do better to surrender the 
guardianship of their charity to their chastity, and 
to walk with the greatest circumspection and self- 
restraint. The reason of this is that those in 
authority are obliged by the very nature of their 
duties, to expose themselves to the dangers insepar- 
able from occasions: in which, however, they are 
assisted by grace, seeing they are not tempting 
God by any rashness. 

Contrariwise, those private individuals who 
expose themselves to danger without any legiti- 
mate excuse run great risk of tempting God and 
losing His grace; since it is written that he that 
loveth danger (still more he that seeketh it) shall 
perish in it.’’* 


I can never express to you, or convey a right 
idea, of the high esteem in which he held purity 
of heart. He said that chastity of body was com- 
mon enough even among unbelievers and among 
persons addicted to other vices; but that very few 
people could truly say, my heart is pure. 

*Eccles iii. 27 

Upon Chastity and Humility 143 

I do not say that by this purity of heart he 
meant the never being troubled by sinful desires, 
for that would be making the virtue of chastity 
to consist in insensibility; and what do those who 
are not tempted know about the matter ? 

No; he placed it in never yielding to unlawful 
affections. To these we should rather give the 
name of infections, since they infect the will, and 
interfere with the safe custody of the heart, which 
is the well-spring of the spiritual life. 


Speaking of the humility and chastity of the 
Blessed Virgin the holy Prelate said: “These 
two virtues, although they have to be continually 
practised, should be spoken of so rarely that this 
rarity of speech may rank as silence. The reason 
is that it is difficult to mention these virtues or to 
praise them either in themselves or in any indivi- 
dual who possesses them, without in some way 
sullying their brightness. 

1. There is, in my opinion, no human tongue 
which can rightly express their value, and to 
praise them inadequately is in a way to disparage 

2. To praise humility is to cause it to be de- 
sired from a secret self-love and to invite people 
to enter its domain through the wrong door. 

3. To praise humility in any individual is to 
tempt him to vanity and to flatter him danger- 
ously; for the more he thinks himself humble the 
less he will really be so; and possibly when he 
sees that others consider him humble he will think 
that he must be so. 

144 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

4. As regards chastity, to praise it in itself 
is to leave on the mind a secret and almost imper- 
ceptible image of the contrary vice, and therefore 
to expose the mind to some danger of temptation. 
There is a sting hidden in the honey of such 

5. To praise it in any individual is Tim ES 
measure to expose him to the danger of falling. 
It is to put a stumbling-block in his way. It is to 
inflate that pride which under a fair disguise may 
lure him over a precipice. 

6. We must never be content to rely upon our 
hitherto untarnished purity of life, but must 
always fear, since innocence is a treasure which 
we carry in a vessel of glass, easily broken. 

7. Ina word, the virtues of humility and chas- 
tity always seem to me like those subtle essences 
which evaporate if they are not kept very tightly 

8. However, although I consider it wise very 
seldom to speak of these two virtues, it is wise to 
practise them unceasingly, humility being one of 
the most excellent virtues of the soul, and purity 
that fair white adornment of the body which is its 
honour, and which, like a lily growing among 
thorns, brings forth a wonderful flower, whose 
fruit is honour and riches. 

g- Nevertheless, I do not mean that we are to 
be so scrupulous as never to dare to speak of these 
virtues; not even to praise them when occasion 
warrants or demands our doing so. No, indeed, 
In one sense they can never be sufficiently praised, 
nor ever sufficiently valued and cultivated. What 
I mean is that we gain little by praising them. 

Upon Modesty 145 

Our words in praise of a virtue are of little account 
in comparison with the smallest fruit; that is, with 
the least of the acts of a virtue. 

I add this because I know you attach too much 
importance to my words, and take them as literally. 
as if they were oracles.” 


Our Blessed Father, speaking of the virtue of 
modesty, and dilating upon one of its chief pro- 
perties, namely, its extraordinary sensitiveness to 
the slightest injurious influence, made use of two 
beautiful comparisons: ‘‘ However pure, trans- 
parent, and polished the surface of a mirror may 
be, the faintest breath is sufficient to make it so 
dull and misty that it is unable to reflect any 
image. So it is with the reputation of the virtuous. 
However high and well established it may be, 
according the words of wisdom: Oh! how beautiful 
is the chaste generation!* a thoughtless, unre- 
strained glance or gesture is quite sufficient to give 
occasion to a slanderous tongue to infect that repu- 
tation with the serpent’s venom, and to hide its 
lustre from the eyes of the world, as clouds hide the 
brightness of the sun. 

Again, look at this beautiful lily. It is the sym- 
bol of purity; it preserves its whiteness and sweet- 
ness, amid all the blackness and ruggedness of the 
encircling thorns. As long as it remains untouched 
its perfume is delicious and its dazzling beauty of 
form and colour charms every passer-by; but, as 
soon as it is culled, the scent is so strong as to be 
overpowering, and should you touch the petals they 

*Wisd. iv. I. 

146 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

lose their satin smoothness as well as all their pure 
and white loveliness.” 


Since our Blessed Father was not, like the mar- 
tyrs, privileged to offer his body, both by living and 
dying, as a victim for God, he found out, with the 
ingenuity ,of love, a method of self-humiliation and 
self-sacrifice to be carried out after his death. 

When quite young and still pursuing his studies 
at Padua, falling dangerously ill, and his life being 
despaired of, he begged his tutor to see that when 
he was dead his body should be given into the hands 
of ‘the surgeons for dissection. ‘* Having been of 
so little use to my neighbour in life,” he said, “I 
shall thus at least, after my death, be able to render 
him some small service.” 

Happily for us, God in His great mercy spared 
this precious life, being contented, as in the case of 
the sacrifice of Isaac, with the offering of His faith- 
ful servant’s will and with his generous contempt 
for his own flesh. 

A motive which urged Blessed Francis to the 
above resolution, besides his desire of self-humilia- 
tion and immolation, was the hope of putting an end 
to the scandalous practice then prevailing among 
the surgical and medical students at Padua of 
secretly by night going to the cemeteries to disinter 
newly-buried bodies. This they did when they had 
failed to obtain those of criminals from.the officers 
of justice. Innumerable evils, quarrels, and even 
murders resulted from this practice, and the indig- 
nation of the relatives and friends of the deceased 
persons whose corpses were stolen may be imagined. 

Upon our Saints Humility 147 

By setting the example of a voluntary surrender of 
his own body for dissection our Blessed Father 
hoped to diminish such orders. 


It was of course impossible for Blessed Francis 
to be ignorant of the high esteem in which his piety 
was held, not only by his own people, but by all 
who knew him. This knowledge was, however, as 
may well be believed, a source of pain to him, and 
often covered him with confusion. He seldom 
spoke on the subject, for true humility rarely 
speaks, even humbly, of itself. Yet on one occa- 
sion, when more than usually worried by hearing 
himself praised, he allowed these words to fall from 
his lips: ‘* The truth is that these good people with 
all their eulogiums, and expressions of esteem, are 
sowing the seed of a bitter fruit for me to gather in 
the end. When I am dead, imagining that my 
poor soul has gone straight to Heaven, they will 
not pray for it, and will leave me languishing in 
Purgatory. Of what avail then will this high repu- 
tation be to me? They are treating me like those 
animals which suffocate their young by their close 
pressure and caresses, or like the ivy which drags 
down the wall it seems to crown with verdure.” 

I willnow give you some examples of his humility. 
He was sometimes told that people had spoken ill 
of him. Instead of excusing or defending himself, 
he would say cheerfully, ‘‘ Do they say no more 
than that? Certainly, they cannot know all, they 
flatter me, they spare me: I see very well that they 
rather pity than envy me, and that they wish me to 
be better than I am. Well! God be praised for 

148 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

this, I must correct my faults, for if I do not de- 
serve reproof in this particular matter, I do in some 
other. It is really a mercy that the correction is 
given so kindly.’’ If anyone took up his defence 
and declared that the whole accusation was false, 
‘“Ah! well, ’? he would say, ‘‘it is a warning to 
make me careful not to justify it, for surely they are 
doing me a kindness by calling my attention to the 
dangers of this rock ahead.” 

Then, noticing how indignant we all were with 
the slanderers, ‘‘ What,’ he would exclaim, 
“have I given you leave to fly into a passion on 
my account? Let them talk—it is but a storm in a 
teacup, a tempest of words that will die away and 
be forgotten. We must be sensitive indeed if we 
cannot bear the buzzing of a fly! Who has told us 
that we are blameless? Possibly these people see 
our faults better than we see them ourselves, and 
better than those who love us do. When truths 
displease us, we often call them slanders. What 
harm do others do us by having a bad opinion of 
us? We ought to have a bad opinion of ourselves. 
Such persons are not our adversaries, but rather 
our allies, since they enlist themselves on our side 
in the battle against our self-love. Why be angry 
with those who come to our aid against so powerful 
an enemy? ” 

It happened once that a certain simple-minded 
woman told our saint bluntly that what she had 
heard of him had caused her to loose all esteem 
for him. Blessed Francis replied quietly that her 
straightforward words only increased his fatherly 
affection for her, as they were an evidence of great 
candour, a virtue he highly respected. 

Upon our Saints Humility 149 

The woman proceeded to declare that the reason 
she was so greatly disappointed in him was be- 
cause she had been told that he had taken her 
adversary’s part in a law-suit instead of acting 
as the father of all and siding with none. ‘‘ Nay,” 
rejoined the Saint, ‘‘do not fathers interfere in 
the quarrels of their children, judging between 
right and wrong? Besides, the verdict of the 
court should have convinced you that you were 
in the wrong, since it was given against you; and 
had I been one of the judges I must have decided 
as they did.” 

The woman protested that injustice had been 
done to her, but the Saint quietly and patiently 
reasoned with her and assured her that although 
it was natural that she should feel angry at first, 
yet, when the bandage of passion had fallen from 
her eyes, she would thank God for having deprived 
her of that which in justice she could not have 

This person finally admitted that she had been 
in the wrong, but enquired if Blessed Francis was 
really not annoyed at her having lost her high 
opinion of him, having formerly regarded him as a 
Saint. He assured her she was wrong in having done 
so, and that, far from being annoyed, his esteem 
for her was all the greater on account of this, her 
correct judgment. “‘ Believe me,” he went on to 
say, ‘‘I am speaking from a sense of truth, and 
not out of false humility, when I maintain that 
my friends over-rate me. The fact is, they try to 
persuade themselves that I really am what they so 
ardently desire me to be. They expose me to the 
danger of losing my soul by pride and presump- 

150 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

tion. You, on the contrary, are giving me a 
practical lesson in humility, and are thus leading 
me in the way of salvation, for it is written, God 
will save the humble of heart.’’ 


He disliked expressions of humility unless they 
clearly came from the heart, and said that words 
of this kind were the flower, the cream, and the 
quintessence of the most subtle pride, subtle inas- 
much as it was hidden even from him who spoke 
them. He compared such language to a certain 
sublimated and penetrating poison, which to the 
eye seems merely a mist. 

Those who speak this language of false humility 
are lifted up on high, whilst in thoughts and 
motives they remain mean and low. He considered 
similar fashions of speech to be even more intoler- 
able than the words of vain persons who are the 
sport of their hearers, and whose empty boasting 
makes them to be like balloons, the plaything of 
everybody. A mocking laugh is sufficient to let 
all the wind which puffs them out escape. Words 
of humility coming merely from the lips, and not 
from the heart, lead surely to vanity, though by 
what seems the wrong road. Those who utter 
them are like people who take their salary gladly 
enough, but insist on first making a show of 
refusing and of saying that they want nothing. 

Even excuses proffered in this manner accus . 
and betray the person who offers them. The truly 
humble of heart do not wish to appear humble, but 
to be humble. Humility is so delicate a virtue 
that it is afraid of its own shadow, and cannot hear 

Upon various degrees of Humility 151 

its own name uttered without running the risk of 


Blessed Francis set the highest value upon the 
virtue of humility, which he called the foundation 
of all moral virtues, and together with charity, the 
solid basis of true piety. 

He used to say that there was no moral excellence 
more literally christian than humility, because it 
was not known even by name to the heathen of 
old. Even of the most renowned among ancient 
philosophers, such virtues as they possessed were 
inflated with pride and self-love. 

Not every kind of humility pleased him. He 
was not willing to accept any as true metal until 
he had put it to many a test and trial. 

1. He required in the first place that there should 
be genuine self-knowledge. To be truly humble 
we must recognise the fact that we come from 
nothing, that we are nothing, that we can do 
nothing, that we are worth nothing, and in fine that 
we are idle do-nothings, unprofitable servants, in- 
capable of even forming a single good thought, as 
of ourselves. Yet self-knowledge, he said, if it 
stood alone, however praiseworthy in itself, would 
only render those who possessed it the more guilty 
if they did not act up to it, in order to become 
better; because moral virtue being in the will, and 
mere knowledge only in the understanding, the 
latter alone cannot in any way pass current as true 

2. He even had some doubt of humility though 
residing in the will, because it is quite possible to 

152 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

misuse it, and to turn humility itself into vanity. 
Take for instance those who, having been invited to 
a banquet, take at once possession of the very 
lowest place, or of one which they know to be in- 
ferior to that due to their rank. They may do this 
on purpose to be invited to go higher amidst the 
applause of the company, and with advantage to 
themselves. He called this a veritable entering 
into vanity, and through the wrong door: for the 
truly humble do not wish to appear humble, but 
only vile and lowly. They love to be considered 
as of no account, and, as such, to be despised and 

3. Even this did not satisfy him. He was not 
content with mere natural virtue, but insisted that 
humility must be christian, given birth to, and 
animated by charity. Otherwise he held it in 
small esteem, refusing to admit that among 
christians it suffices to practise virtues in pagan 
fashion. But what is this infused and supernatural 
humility? It is to love and delight in one’s own 
humiliation, for the reason that by its means we 
are able to give glory to God, Who accepts the 
humility of His servants, but puts far away from 
His heart the proud in spirit. 

4. Again, our Saint taught that in striving to 
please God by bearing humiliations, we should 
aim at accepting such as are not of our own choice 
rather than those that are voluntary. He used 
to say that the crosses fashioned by us for our- 
selves are always of the lightest and slenderest, 
and that he valued an ounce of resignation to 
suffering above pounds’ weight of painful toil, 
good though it might be in itself, undertaken of 
one’s own accord. 

Upon various degrees of Humility 153 

5. Quiet endurance of reproaches, contempt, or 
depreciation, was, in his opinion, the true touch- 
stone of humility, because it renders us more like 
to Jesus Christ, the Prototype of all solid virtue, 
Who humbled and annihilated Himself, making 
Himself obedient unto death, even the ignominious 
death of the Cross. 

6. He commended voluntary seeking after 
humiliations, yet he insisted upon great discretion 
being practised in this search, since it easily 
happens that self-love may subtly and imper- 
ceptibly insinuate itself therein. 

7. Next he considered that the highest, or more 
properly speaking, deepest degree of humility is 
that of taking pleasure and even delight in humilia- 
tions, reputing them to be in truth the greatest of 
honours, and of being just as much ill-content with 
honours as vain persons are with contempt and 

In illustration of this he would quote Moses, who 
preferred the reproach of Israel to the glories of a 
kingdom offered to him by Pharaoh’s daughter; of 
Esther, who hated the splendid ornaments with 
which they decked her to make her pleasing in the 
eyes of Assuerus; of the Apostles, whose greatest 
joy was to suffer shame and reproach for the name 
of Jesus; and of David, who danced before the Ark 
amid a crowd of buffoons and mountebanks, and 
who exulted in thus making himself appear con- 
temptible in the eyes of Michol, his wife. 

8. Blessed Francis called humility a descending 
charity, and charity an ascending humility. The 
former he compared to those streams which come 
down from the heights and flow down into the 

154 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

valleys. The latter to the slender column of smoke 
spoken of in the Canticle* which rises up towards 
Heaven, and is composed of all the sweet essences 
of the perfumer. 

g. The Saint next gives a rare lesson on the 
measure or means of gauging humility. Obedience 
is to be its source and touch-stone. This teaching 
he grounded on the saying of St. Paul: that our 
Lord humbled Himself, making Himself obedient.F 
‘“Do you see,” he would say, “by what scale 
humility must be measured? By obedience. If 
you obey promptly, frankly, cheerfully, without 
murmuring, expostulating, or replying, you are 
truly humble. Nor without humility can one be 
easily and really obedient, for obedience demands 
submission of the heart, and only the truly humble 
look upon themselves as inferior to all and as subject 
to every creature for the love of Jesus Christ. They 
ever regard their fellow-men as their superiors, they 
consider themselves to be the scorn of men and the 
off-scouring of the world. Thus these two virtues, 
like two pieces of iron, by friction one with the 
other, enhance each other’s brightness and polish. 
We are humble only in as far as we are obedient, 
and in fine we are pleasing to God only in as far as 
we have charity.” 

10. He recommended all to endeavour to steep 
their every action in the spirit of humility, as the 
swan steeps in water each morsel she swallows, and 
how can this be done except by hiding our good 
works as much as we can from the eyes of men, and. 
by desiring that they may be seen only by Him 
to Whom all things are open, and from Whom 

*Cant iï. 6. tPhilipp ii. 8. 

Upon various degrees of Humility 155 

nothing can be hid. Our Saint himself, urged by 
this spirit, said that he would have wished, had 
there been any goodness in him, that it might have 
been hidden from himself as well as from all others 
until the Judgment Day, when the secrets of all 
hearts will be revealed. The Gospel itself exhorts 
us to observe this secrecy, for it warns us to serve 
God in secret, and by hiding our virtues, our 
prayers, our almsgiving, fittingly to worship Him, 
Who is a hidden God. 

11. Blessed Francis did not, however, desire that 
we Should put ourselves to the constraint and dis- 
comfort of avoiding good actions simply because 
of their being praiseworthy in the eyes of others. 
What he approved of was a noble, generous, 
courageous humility, not that which is mean, timid, 
and cowardly. True, he would not that anything 
should be done for so low a motive as to win the 
praise of men, but at the same time he would not 
have an undertaking abandoned for fear of its 
success being appreciated and applauded. ‘‘It is 
only very weak heads,” he said, “‘ that are made 
to ache by the scent of roses.” 

12. Above all things, he recommended people 
not to speak either in praise or blame of themselves 
save when doing so is absolutely necessary, and 
then with great reticence. It was his opinion (as it 
was Aristotle’s) that both self-praise and self-blame 
spring from the same root of vanity and foolish- 
ness. ‘‘ As for boasting, it is,” he said, ‘‘ so ridicu- 
lous a weakness that it is hissed down by even the 
vulgar crowd. Its one fitting place is in the mouth 
of a swaggering comedian. In like manner words 
of contempt spoken of ourselves by ourselves, un- 

156 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

less they are absolutely heartfelt and come from a 
mind thoroughly convinced of the fact of its own 
misery, are truly the very acme of pride, and a 
flower of the most subtle vanity; for it rarely hap- 
pens that he who utters them either believes them 
himself or really wishes others to believe them: on 
the contrary, the speaker is mostly only anxious 
rather to be considered humble, and consequently 
virtuous, and seeks that his self-blame should re- 
dound to his honour. Self-dispraise in general is 
no more than a tricky kind of boasting. It reminds 
me of oarsmen who turn their backs on the very 
place which with all the strength of their arms they 
are Striving to reach.” 

The above sentiments of Blessed Francis with 
regard to humility are very striking, but it is much 
more worthy of note that he himself carried his 
principles strictly into practice. His actions were 
so many model lessons and living precepts on the 
subject. O God! how pleasing must the sacrifice 
of his humility have been in Thine eyes which look 
down so closely upon the humble, but regard the 
proud only from afar. 


The great lesson which on all possible occasions 
Blessed Francis inculcated on those who were for- 
tunate enough to come into contact with him, and to 
treat with him concerning their soul’s welfare, was 
that which our Saviour teaches. Learn of Me, be- 
cause I am meek and humble of heart.* Not, how- 
ever, that he attached the meaning to the words 

*Matt. xi. 20. 

Upon Humiliation 157 

meek, and humble, often, but very erroneously, 
given to them. 

By meekness he did not understand a kind of 
honeyed sweetness, too often mixed with a good 
deal of affectation and pretention. A wolf’s heart 
may be hidden under the fleece and gentle seeming 
of a lamb, and underneath an outside covering of 
humility may lurk secret arrogance, such that while 
appearing to lie down to be trodden under men’s 
feet, those humble after this fashion may by 
pride in their own pretended state of perfection be 
putting all men under their own feet. Our Lord’s 
words, If any man will come after Me, let him deny 
himself take up his cross, and follow Me,* Blessed 
Francis, in one of his letters, explained as follows: 

‘It is to walk side by side with our crucified 
Bridegroom, to abase ourselves, to humble our- 
selves, to despise ourselves even to the death of all 
our passions; yea, I say, even to the death of the 
Cross. But observe, my dear daughter, that this 
abasement, this humility, this contempt of our- 
selves, must, as I have told you before, be practised 
gently, quietly, persistently, and not only sweetly, 
but gladly and joyously.” 


Whatever perfection the just man may recognize 
in himself, he is like the palm tree, which, says the 
Psalmist, the higher it rears its lofty head the 
deeper down in the earth it casts its roots. 

And certainly, since all our perfection comes from 
God, since we have no good or perfect gift which 

158 The Sprit of St. Francis De Sales 

we have not received from the Father of Lights, we 
have no reason to glorify ourselves. 

Truly, we can do nothing of ourselves as of our- 
selves, all our sufficiency, in good, proceeding from 
God. Our vanity is such that as soon as we begin 
to suspect we are not guilty, we regard ourselves as 
innocent, forgetting that if we do not fail in one 
direction we do in another, and that, as St. Gregory 
says, our perfection, in proportion to its advance- 
ment, makes us the better perceive our imperfec- 

Without purity how should we recognise im- 
purity? It is light which makes us understand 
what darkness is. Many people not discerning in 
themselves certain particular vices think that they 
possess the opposite virtues, and are deceived. 

Again, seeing themselves freed from some 
earthly passions they imagine themselves to be 
clothed in heavenly affections; and thus their ill- 
advised heart is darkened, they feed upon wind, 
and walk on in the vanity of their thoughts. 

Our Blessed Father, reflecting one day upon the 
condition of his soul and feeling it to be enjoying 
great peace owing to its detachment from creatures, 
made his own the sentiments of the great Apostle, 
who, though not feeling himself guilty of anything, 
yet did not therefore consider himself justified, and 
who forgetting the past pressed on always farther 
and farther, never thinking that he had yet reached 
the goal of perfection.* 

I must read you the passage in which he expresses 
this view of himself :— 

“I find my soul a little more to my liking than 

*Philipp. Mi. 13. 

Humility with regard to perfection 159 

usual, because I see nothing in it which keeps it 
attached to this world, and because it is more alive 
to the things of the next, to its eternal joys. Ah! 
if I were but as closely and consciously united to 
God as I am dissevered and alienated from the 
world, how happy I should be! And you, too, my 
daughter, how rejoiced you would be! But I am 
speaking of my feelings, and my inward self; as re- 
gards the exterior, and, worst of all, as regards my 
deportment and behaviour, they are full of all sorts 
of contradictory imperfections. The good which I 
wish to do, I do not do; but nevertheless I know 
well that truly and with no pretence, I do wish to 
do it, and with a most unchanging will. But, my 
Daughter, how can it be that out of such a will so 
many imperfections show themselves as are con- 
tinually springing up within me? Certainly, they 
are not of my will, though they be in my will, and 
on my will. They are like the mistletoe which 
grows and appears on a tree and in a tree, although 
it is not of the tree, nor out of the tree.” 


Although to excuse ourselves for our faults is in 
many circumstances blameworthy, whilst in general 
to accuse ourselves of them is laudable, still when 
self-accusation is carried too far, it is apt to run into 
affectation, making us wish to pass for something 
different from what we really are, or, with scrupu- 
losity, making us persuade ourselves that we are 
what we describe ourselves to be. 

It is true that the just man is his own accuser and 
that, knowing his faults, he declares them simply, 
in Order to be cured of them by wholesome correc- 

160 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

tions. It is also true that it is a bad thing to excuse 
oneself, an excuse being always worse than the 
fault committed, inasmuch as it shows that we 
think we were right in committing the fault; a per- 
suasion which is contrary to truth. 

If our first parents had not excused themselves, 
the man throwing the blame on the woman, the 
woman on the serpent, and if, on the contrary, con- 
fessing their sin, they had repented, they would 
have crushed the serpent while in the act of wound- 
ing them, and God, who had invited them to 
this repentance by His loving rebuke, Adam, 
where art thou? would in His mercy, have surely 
pardoned them. 

This was what made David pray that God would 
set a watch before his mouth, and on his lips, lest 
he should be led to utter evil words. By evil words 
he means excuses which we invent to cover our 

Our Blessed Father advises us as follows: “‘ Be 
just, and without mature consideration, neither ex- 
cuse nor accuse your poor soul, lest if you excuse it 
when you should not, you make it insolent, and if 
you accuse it lightly, you discourage it and make 
it cowardly. Walk simply and you will walk 
securely.’’ I once heard him utter these striking 
words: ‘‘He who excuses himself unjustly, and 
affectedly, accuses himself openly and truly; and 
he who accuses himself simply and humbly, de- 
Serves to be excused kindly and to be pardoned 

There is a confession which brings confusion, 
and another which brings glory. Confession, says 

*Psalm cxl. 3, 4. 

Upon our good name — 161 

St. Ambrose, is the true medicine for sin to him 
who repents of wrong doing. 


It is hardly likely that Blessed Francis could 
have been ambitious of the empty honours attached 
to an office at court since he did not even trouble 
himself to keep up his own reputation, except in as 
far as it might serve to advance the glory of God, 
which was not only the great but the one passion 
of his heart. 

When a very serious accusation against him 
was carried to the court, he tells us: “I re- 
mained humble and silent, not even saying what I 
might have said in my defence, but contenting my- 
self with bearing my suffering in my heart. The 
effect of this patience has been to kindle in my soul 
a more ardent love of God, and also to light up the 
fire of meditation. I said to God: Thou art my 
Protector, and my Refuge in this tribulation, it is 
for Thee to deliver me out of it. O God of truth, 
redeem me from the calumny of men!” 

He wrote as follows on the same subject to a holy 
soul who was far more keenly interested in what 
concerned him than in what affected herself: 
** After all, Providence knows the exact amount of 
reputation which is necessary to me, in order that 
I may rightly discharge the duties of the service to 
which I have been called, and I desire neither more 
nor less than it pleases that good Providence to !et 
me have.” 


He had no desire that we should make light of 

162 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

Our reputation, or be careless about it, but he 
wished us to guard it for the service of God rather 
than for our own honour; and more to avoid scan- 
dal than to glorify ourselves. 

He used to compare reputation to snuff, which 
may be beneficial if used occasionally and moder- 
ately, but which clouds and injures the brain when 
used in excess; and to the mandrake which is 
soothing when smelt at a distance, but if brought 
too close, induces drowsiness and lethargy. 

In his Philothea he devotes one chapter to the 
subject of guarding our reputation, while at the 
same time practising humility.* He did not, how- 
ever, content himself with teaching by precept; he 
went much further, and continually impressed his 
lesson on others by his example. On one occa- 
sion, writing to me about some slanderous reports 
each had been spread in Paris against him, ‘on 
account of conscientious and holy advice hte he 
had given to virtuous people who had sought 
counsel of him, he expressed himself in these 
words: ‘‘ I am told that they are cutting my reputa- 
tion to pieces in Paris, but I hope that God will 
build it up again, stronger than ever, if that is 
necessary for His service. Certainly I do not want 
it except for that purpose, for, provided that God 
be served, what matters whether it be by good or 
evil report, by the exaltation, or by the defamation 
of our good name? ” 

‘“ Ah,” he said to me one day, ‘* what is a man’s 
reputation, that so many should sacrifice them- 
selves to this idol? After all, it is nothing but a 
dream, a phantom, an opinion, so much smoke; 

*Part iii. chap. vil. 

Upon despising the esteem of men 163 

praise of which the very remembrance perishes 
with its utterance; an estimate which is often so 
false that people are secretly amused to hear them- 
selves extolled for virtues, whose contrary vices 
they know to be dominating them, and blamed for 
faults from which they are happily quite free. 
Surely those who complain of being slandered are 
over-sensitive! Their little cross, made of words, is 
so light that a breath of wind carries it away. The 
expression, ‘stung me,’ meaning ‘abused me,’ 
is one that I have never liked, for there is a great 
deal of difference between the humming of a bee, 
and its stinging us! We must indeed have sensi- 
tive ears, if mere buzzing stings them ! 

Truly, those were clever people who invented 
the proverb: ‘A good name is better than riches’; 
preferring reputation to wealth, or, in other words, 
vanity to avarice. Oh, my God! how far removed 
is this from the spirit of faith! Was there ever any 
reputation more torn to pieces than that of Jesus 
Christ? With what insults was He not over- 
whelmed? With what calumnies was He not 
loaded? And yet the Father has given Him a 
name which is above every name, and exalted Him 
the more, the more he was humbled. Did not the 
Apostles also come forth rejoicing from the presence 
of the Council where they had received affronts for 
the name of Jesus? 

Oh, it is a glorious thing to suffer in so worthy 
a cause! But too often we will have none but open 
persecutions, so that our light may shine in the 
midst of darkness, and that our vanity may be 
gratified by a display of our sufferings. We should 
like to be crucified gloriously in the midst of an ad- 

164 The Spirit of St. Francs De Sales 

miring crowd. What! think you that the martyrs 
when they were suffering their cruel tortures, were 
praised by the spectators for their patience? On 
the contrary, they were reviled and held up to 
execration. Ah! there are very few who are will- 
ing to trample under foot their own reputation, if 
so be, they may thereby advance the glory of Him 
Who died an ignominous death upon the Cross, to 
bring us to a glory which has no end.” 


Blessed Francis was once asked if we ought not to 
oppose calumny with the weapons of truth, and if it 
was not as much our duty to keep, for God’s sake, 
our good name, as our bodily strength. He an- 
swered that on such occasions many virtues were 
called into exercise, each claiming precedence over 
the other. 

The first is truth to which the love of God and of 
ourselves in God, compels us to bear testimony. 
Nevertheless that testimony has to be calm, gentle, 
kindly, given without irritation or vehemence, and 
with no anxiety about consequences. Our Saviour, 
when He was accused of having a devil, answered 
quite simply: “‘ I have nota devil.’’* 

If you should be blamed for any scandalous 
fault, of which, however, you know you are not 
guilty, say candidly and quietly that, by the grace 
of God, you are innocent of sucha sin. But, if you 
are not believed, humility now claims her right and 
bids you say that you have indeed many greater 
faults unknown to the world, that you are in every 

*John viii. 49. 


Upon the virtues we should practice, dc. 165 

way miserable and that if God did not sustain you 
in your weakness, you would commit far greater 
crimes than you are accused of. 

This sort of humility is in no way prejudicial to 
truth, for was it not from the depths of true 
humility that David cried out saying, that if God 
had not aided him his soul would have dwelt in 

Should the tempest of evil speaking continue, 
silence steps to the front, and offers her calm 
resistance to the storm, following the teaching of 
the Royal Prophet, who says: And I became as a 
dumb man not opening his mouth.t 

Answering is the oil which feeds the lamp of 
calumny, silence is the water which extinguishes it. 
If silence is unavailing, then patience reminds you 
that it is her turn to act, and, coming forward, 
shelters you with her impenetrable shield; 
patience, as Holy Scripture tells us, makes our 
work perfect. 

If we be still assailed, we must call to our aid 
constancy, which is a kind of double-lined buckler 
of patience, impervious to the most violent thrusts. 

But should evil tongues, growing yet sharper 
and keener, cut to the very quick, longanimity, 
which is an unfailing, undying patience, is ready 
to enter the lists, and eager to help us. For when 
persecution, instead of yielding to our patience, is 
only the more irritated thereby, like a fire which 
burns more fiercely in frosty weather, then is the 
time for us to practise the virtue of longanimity. 

And last of all comes perseverance, which goes 
with us to the very end and without which the 

*Psalm xcii. 17. fId. xxxvii. 14. 

166 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

whole network of virtues would fall to pieces; for 
it is the end which crowns the work, and he who 
perseveres to the end shall be saved. 

Indeed, who can say how many more virtues 
claim a place in this bright choir? Prudence, 
gentleness, modesty of speech, and many another, 
circle round their queen, holy charity, who is in- 
deed the life and soul of them all. Charity it is 
which bids us bless those who curse us, and pray 
for those who persecute us; and this same charity 
not unfrequently transforms our persecutors into 
protectors and changes slanderous tongues into 
trumpets to sound our praise. 


One one occasion somebody quoted in his 
presence the maxims of a very great and very holy 
person (St. Teresa) on the way to attain perfection. 

Despise the world. Despise no man. 

Despise yourself. Despise being despised. 
‘* Be it so,” observed our Blessed Father, ‘as re- 
gards the three first sayings, but, in regard to the 
fourth, to my mind, the very highest degree of 
humility consists in loving and cherishing con- 
tempt, and in being glad to be despised. David so 
acted, when he showed himself pleased to be de- 
pised as a buffoon by his own wife Michol. St. 
Paul, too, gloried in having been scourged, stoned, 
and looked upon as a fool, the off-scouring and very 
refuse of the world. The Apostles came forth re- 
joicing from the presence of the Councils in which, 
for the love of Jesus, they had been loaded with 
opprobrium, contumely, and contempt. A really 
humble man despising himself, is only too glad to 

Upon some spiritual Maxims 167 

find others ready to agree with him, and to help 
him to humble himself. He receives reproaches as 
God’s good gift, and deems himself unworthy of 
aught else.” 

He had something, too, to say about the first 
three maxims. Taking the world in the sense of 
the universe, it is, he said, a great stage, on which 
are shown the wonders of Almighty God, all of 
Whose works are very good—nay, are perfect. 
But, even taking the word “‘world ” in the sense in 
which it is mostly used in Scripture, meaning the 
company of the wicked, he said, that we should in- 
deed despise their vices, yet not themselves; for 
who knows but that they will in the end, be con- 
verted? How many vessels of contempt have been, 
by the change of the right hand of God, trans- 
formed into vessels of honour? 

To despise no one, which is the second dictum, 
seems at first sight to contradict the first, if, by 
‘the world °? be meant the vicious and not merely 
their vices. It is certainly very right to despise no 
one, but it is still more reasonable and more advan- 
tageous to ourselves, who wish to advance in per- 
fection, to value and esteem all men, because created 
by God to His image, and because fitted for par- 
taking of His grace and of His glory. 

The third maxim, which tells us to despise our- 
selves, also needs some explanation. We ought 
not under pretence of humility to slight and despise 
the graces which God has given us. To do so 
would be to throw ourselves over the precipice of 
ingratitude in order to avoid perishing in the pit- 
fall of vanity. ‘‘ Nothing,’’ said he, ‘‘can so 
humble us before the mercy of God, as the multi- 

168 The Spirit of St Francis De Sales 

tude of his benefits; nothing can so abase us before 
the throne of His justice, as the countless number 
of our misdeeds. We need never fear that the 
good things God has given us will feed our pride, 
as long as we remember that whatever there may 
be in us that is good, it is not of us.” 


I was complaining to him one day of a great 
injury which had been done to me. He answered, 
“ To anybody but you I should try to apply some 
soothing balm of consolation, but your circum- 
stances, and the pure love which I bear to you, 
dispense me from this act of courtesy. I have no 
oil to pour into your wound, and, indeed, were I 
to affect to sympathise with you, it might only in- 
crease the pain of the wound you have received. 
I have nothing but vinegar and cleansing salt to 
pour in, and I must simply put in practice the 
command of the Apostle: Reprove, entreat.* You 
finished your complaint by saying that great and 
tried patience was needful to enable a man to bear 
such attacks in silence. Certainly, your patience 
is not of so high a stamp, since you reserve to 
yourself the privilege of lamentation! ”’ 

“ But, Father,’’ I replied, “‘ you see it is only 
into your heart that I pour out my sorrow. Whena 
child is troubled to whom should it turn if not to 
its kind father?” ‘* You, a child, indeed; and for 
how long do you mean to go on clinging to your 
childhood? Is it right that one who is the father 
of others, one to whom God has given the rank 
of a Bishop in His Church, should play the child? 

* 2 Tim ive 

Upon Patience 169 

:' When we are children, says St. Paul, we may 
speak as children, but not when we are become 
men. The lisping which pleases us in a baby 1s 
altogether unsuitable for a sturdy boy. Do you 
wish me to give you milk and pap instead of solid 
food? Am I like a nurse to breathe softly on your 
hurt? Are not your teeth strong enough to mas- 
ticate bread, the hard bread of suffering? Have 
you forgotten how to eat bread? Are your teeth 
set on edge by eating sour grapes? It is a fine 
thing, indeed, for you to complain to an earthly 
father, you, who ought to be saying with David to 
your heavenly Father: I was dumb and I opened 
not my mouth, because thou hast done it.* 

‘ But,’ you will say, ‘it is not God but wicked 
men who have done this to me!’ 

Ah, indeed! and do you forget that it is what 
is called the permissive will of God which makes 
use of the malice of men, either to correct you 
or to exercise you in virtue? Job says: The Lord 
gave and the Lord hath taken away.t He does 
not say: The devil and the thieves took my goods 
and my dear ones from me: he sees only the hand 
of God which does all these things by such instru- 
ments as it pleases Him to use. You seem unfor- 
tunately to have no wish to rank yourself with him 
who said that the rod and staff with which God 
struck him brought him consolation ;{ and that he 
was like a man helpless and abandoned, yet, never- 
theless, free from the dead;§ that he was as one 
deaf and dumb, who paid no heed to the insults 
poured into his ears;{] that he was humbled in 

*Psalm xxxviii. 10. tJob i. 21. 
{Psalm xxii. 4. §Psalm Ixxxvii. 5, 6. QYPsalm xxxvii. 15. 

170 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

the dust, and kept silence even from good words, 
which might have served to justify him and to 
defend his innocence. 

‘But, Father,’ you continue, ‘how is it that 
you have become so harsh, and have changed your 
gentleness, as Job says to Almighty God, into 
cruelty? Where is your unfailing compassion ? ’ 
I answer, my compassion is as great and as sin- 
cere as ever; for God knows how much I love you, 
since I love you more than myself, and how I 
should reproach myself if I allowed my heart to 
be hardened against you. It is, however, too clear 
that the injury you have received is resented by 
you, since you complain of it. We do not usually 
complain of what pleases us, quite the reverse, we 
are glad and rejoice and expect to be congratulated, 
not pitied. Witness the great parables of the find- 
ing of the lost sheep and the lost groat.’ 

‘Well,’ you reply, ‘and do you really want 
me to tell you that black looks exhilarate me, and 
that I can bear smoke puffed in my face without 
even sneezing? ’ 

O man of little faith and of most limited 
patience! What then of our Gospel maxims as 
to giving our cheek to the smiter, and our beard to 
those who pluck it out; what of the beatitude of 
the persecuted; of the giving our coat to him who 
takes away our cloak; of blessing those who curse 
us; of a cordial and hearty love of our enemies? 
Are these sayings, think you, only curiosities to 
be put in a cabinet; are they not rather those seals 
of the Spouse, which He desires us to set upon 
our hearts and our arms, on our thoughts and on 
our works ? 

Upon Patience val 

Well, well, I pardon you from indulgence, to 
use the expression of the Apostle, but, on condition 
that you will be more courageous for the future, 
and that you will shut up tightly in the casket of 
silence all like favours which God sends to you, 
so as not to let their perfume escape, and that 
you will render thanks in your heart to our Father 
in Heaven, Who deigns to bestow upon you a tiny 
splinter from the Cross of His Son. What! you 
delight in wearing a heavy cross of gold upon 
your breast, and you cannot bear the weight of one 
light as is your owr upon your heart, but must 
needs try to rid yourself of it by complaining! 
Then, again, even when it is gone, you must needs 
talk about what you have put up with, and would 
like me to consider you patient merely because you 
do not openly resent the wrong done you. As if 
the great virtue of patience consisted only in the 
not revenging yourself, and not much more, as it 
really does, in uttering no word of complaint. 

‘* Moreover, it appears to me that you are quite 
wrong in so much as talking about being patient 
under injuries such as you have suffered. Patience 
is too distinguished a virtue to be needed for so 
trivial an act—the lesser good qualities of modera- 
tion, forbearance, and silence would amply suffice. 
In silence and in hope shall your strength be.’’* 
So he dismissed me, ashamed of myself, it is true, 
but, like the giant of fable, strengthened by having 
fallen. On leaving him I felt as if all the insults 
in the world would henceforth fail to make me 
utter one single word of complaint. I was much 
consoled afterwards by coming across, in one of 

*Isaaah xx. 15. 

172 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

his letters, the same remark about moderation and 
forbearance as he had then addressed to me. He 
writes: “Nothing can have a more tranquillizing 
effect upon us in this world than the frequent con- 
sideration of the afflictions, necessities, contempt, 
calumnies, insults, and humiliations which our 
Lord suffered from His birth to His most painful 
death. When we contemplate such a weight of 
bitterness as this, are we not wrong in giving to the 
trifling misfortunes which befall us, even the names 
of adversities and injuries? Are we not ashamed 
to ask a share of His divine patience to help us 
to bear such trifles as these, seeing that the 
smallest modicum of moderation and humility 
would suffice to make us bear calmly the insults 
offered to us?” 


He used to say that a harvest of virtues could be 
gathered in from a crop of affronts and injuries, 
because they offer us in abundance opportunities 
of making such acts as the following: 

1. Of justice: for who is there that has not sinned 
and consequently has not deserved punishment? 
Has anyone offended you? Well, think how often 
you have offended God! Surely, therefore, it is 
meet that creatures, the instruments of His justice, 
Should punish you. 

2. But perhaps you were justly accused? Well, 
if so, simply acknowledge your fault, asking par- 
don of God as well as of men, and be grateful to 
those who have accused you, even though they 
have done it in such a manner as to add unnecessary 
bitterness to your suffering. Remember that 

How to profit by bearing with insults 173 

medicines are none the less salutary for being 

3. But may-be you were accused falsely? If so, 
calmly and quietly, but without hesitation, bear 
witness to the truth. We owe this to our neigh- 
bours, who might, if we were silent, believe the 
charge brought against us, and thus be greatly dis- 

4. Yet, if, after this, people persist in blaming 
you, abandon any further defence of yourself, and 
conquer by silence, modesty, and patience. 

5. Prudence has its own part to play in the con- 
flict; for there is no better way of dealing with 
insults than by treating them with contempt. He 
who gives way to anger looks as if he acknow- 
ledged the truth of the accusation. 

6. Discretion, too, comes to the aid of prudence 
by counselling toleration. 

7. Courage in all its power and grandeur raises 
you above yourself. 

8. Temperance bridles your passions and curbs 
them into submission. 

9. Humility will make you love and value your 

10. Faith will, as St. Paul says, stop the mouths 
of lions, and more than this, it will, he says, set 
before our eyes for our loving contemplation and 
imitation Jesus Christ Himself, overwhelmed with 
insults and calumnies, yet silent, unmoved, as one 
who hears not and is dumb. 

11. Hope will hold out before you an imperish- 
able crown, the reward of your trials and suffer- 
ings which endure but for a moment. 

12. Charity, last of all, will come to you and 

174 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

abide with you—charity, patient and sweet, benign 
and yielding, believing all, hoping all, enduring 
all, ready and willing to suffer all. 

The more we value our eternal salvation the 
more heartily shall we welcome suffering. 


Blessed Francis laid great stress upon the 
necessity of patience when we are importuned. 
“ Yet,” he would say, ‘‘ patience seems almost too 
great a power to invoke in this matter. In reality 
a little gentleness, forbearance, and self-control 
ought to suffice. Still, when we speak of patience it 
must not be as if it were to be employed only in 
the endurance of really great evils, for, while we 
are waiting for these notable occasions that occur 
rarely ina lifetime, we neglect the lesser ones. We 
imagine that our patience is capable of putting up 
with great sufferings and affronts, and we give 
way to impatience under the sting or bite of an 
insect. We fancy that we could help, wait upon, 
and relieve our neighbour in long or severe sick- 
ness, and yet we cannot bear that same reighbour’s 
ill-bred manner, and irritating moods, his awkward- 
ness and incivility, and above all his importunity, 
especially if he comes just at the wrong moment 
to talk to us about matters which seem to us 
frivolous and unimportant. 

We triumphantly excuse ourselves for our 
impatience on these occasions by ,alleging our 
deeps sense of the value of time ; that one only thing, 
says an ancient writer, ,;with regard to which avarice 
is laudable. 

But we fail to see that we employ this precious 

That he who complains sins 175 

time in doing many things far more vain and idle 
than in the satisfying the claims of our neighbour, 
and possibly less important than those about which 
he talks to us, occasioning what we call loss of 

When we are conversing with others we should 
try to please them and to show that their con- 
versation is agreeable to us, and when we are alone 
we should take pleasure in solitude. Unfortunately, 
however, our minds are so inconsistent that we are 
always looking behind us, like Lot’s wife. In 
company we sigh for solitude, and in solitude, in- 
stead of enjoying its sweets, we hanker after the 
company of others.” 


One of Blessed Francis’ most frequent sayings 
was: He who complains, seldom does so without 
sinning. Now, you are anxious to know what 
exactly he meant by this, and if it is not allowable 
to complain to superiors of wrongs which have 
been done us, and when we are ill, to seek relief 
from suffering, by describing our pains to the 
physician, so that he may apply to them the proper 

To put this interpretation on the words of Blessed 
Francis is to overstrain their meaning. The letter 
killeth, and needs to be interpreted by the spirit 
that quickeneth, that is, to be taken gently and 

Our Blessed Father condemns complaining when 
it borders upon murmuring. He used to say that 
those who thus complained sinned, because our 
self-love always magnifies unduly any wrongs done 

176 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 
to ourselves, weighing them in the most deceitful 
of balances, and applying the most extravagant 
epithets to things which if done by us to others 
we should pass over as not worth a thought. 

He did not consider it at all wrong to claim 
from a court of justice, quietly, calmly, and dis- 
passionately, reparation of injuries done to our 
property, person, or honour. He has, indeed, 
devoted a whole chapter in his Philothea* to 
demonstrating that we may, without failing in 
humility or charity, do what is necessary for the 
preservation of our good name. But human weak- 
ness is such that it is difficult even in a court of 
justice to keep our temper and retain a proper 
equanimity: hence the proverb that, in a hundred- 
weight of law, there is not so much as an ounce of 
good nature. 

It was also his wish that when sick we should 
state what ails us quite simply and straightfor- 
wardly to those who can relieve us, always remem- 
bering that God commands us to honour the 
physician.f To Philothea he says: “ When you 
are ill offer your sufferings, pains, and weakness 
to the service of our Lord, and entreat Him to 
unite them to the torments which He endured for 
you. Obey the physician; take medicine, food, and 
other remedies for the love of God; remembering 
the gall which He accepted for love of you. 
Desire to recover your health that you may serve 
Him, but, if He so will, do not refuse to linger 
long upon your bed of pain, so as to obey Him; 
in fine, be ready to die if that is His pleasure, that 
you may praise and enjoy Him.’’t 

*Part iii. chap. vil. 
¢Eccles. xxxviii. 1,-12. {Part iii. chap. 3. 

That he who complains sins 177 

It was his opinion that when we complain, how- 
ever justly, a certain amount of self-love is always 
at the bottom of the complaint, and that a habit 
of grumbling is a positive proof of our being too 
tender of ourselves and too cowardly. 

After all, of what use are complaints? They do 
but beat the air and serve to prove that if we suffer 
wrong it is with regret, with sadness, and not with- 
out some desire of revenging ourselves. An un- 
greased wheel makes the most noise in turning, and 
in like manner, he who has the least patience is 
the first to grumble. 

We must remember, however, that all men 
deceive themselves. Those who complain do not 
mean to be considered impatient. On the contrary, 
they tell you that if it were not this particular thing, 
they would speak and act differently; but that, as 
it is, if God did not forbid vengeance they would 
assuredly take it in the most signal manner. 
Poor Israelites! really brought out of Egypt, but 
yet still hankering after the leeks and garlic of that 
miserable country! Truly such feebleness of mind 
is pitiable, and most unworthy of a soul avowedly 
consecrated to the service of the Cross of Jesus 

It is not that we are absolutely forbidden to com- 
plain under great sufferings of body or mind, or 
under great losses. Job, the mirror of the patient, 
uttered many complaints, yet without prejudice to 
that virtue which made him so highly esteemed by 
God, and renders him famous in all ages. It would 
not only be unwise, but possibly a sin, so to con- 
ceal bodily suffering—under the pretext of being 
resolved not to complain—as to refuse to have 


178 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

recourse to either physician or remedies, and 
thereby to risk bringing ourselves down to the 
gates of the grave. 

Even God, the All-Perfect, does not refrain 
from pouring forth His complaints against sinners, 
as we know from many parts of Holy Scripture. 
We must then in this matter preserve a just 
medium, and although it behoves us sometimes to 
suffer in silence, yet at other times we must make 
known our sufferings, since that suffering is truly 
the most wretched which, amid torments, has no 

The Son of God, the pattern of all perfection, 
wept and cried aloud at the grave of Lazarus and 
on the Cross, showing that He pities our sufferings 
and shares our griefs. The measure of our com- 
plainings must be fixed by discretion, which St. 
Anthony calls the regent and ruler of the king- 
dom of virtues, appointed to guard it from the 
encroachments of sin, ever Striving to gain 
dominion there. 

Our Blessed Father gives us the following lesson 
on the subject: ‘‘ We must,’’ he says, ‘‘ abstain 
from a but little noticed, yet most hurtful 
imperfection, against which few people guard them- 
selves. This is, that when we are compelled to 
blame our neighbour or to complain of his con- 
duct, which should be as seldom as possible, we 
never seem to get done with the matter, but go 
on perpetually repeating our complaints and 
lamentations; a sure sign of irritation and peevish- 
ness and of a heart as yet destitute of true charity. 
Great and powerful minds only make mourning 

* Virgil, Æneid I. 

Blessed Francis calmness in tribulation 179 

about great matters, and even these they dismiss 
as quickly as possible, never giving way to passion 
or fretfulness.”’ 


The similitude of the nest of the halcyon or 
kingfisher, supposed to float on the sea, which our 
Saint describes so well and applies so exquisitely 
in one of his letters, was the true picture of his 
own heart. The great stoic, Seneca, says that it 
is easy to guide a vessel on a smooth sea and aided 
by favourable winds, but that it is in the midst of 
tempests and hurricanes that the skill of the pilot 
is shown.* So it is with the soul, whose fidelity 
and loyalty towards the Divine Lover is well tested 
by sufferings and sorrows. 

The more he was crossed, the more he was upset, 
and, like the palm tree, the more violently the 
winds beat against him, the deeper and stronger 
roots he threw out. His own words express this 
truth so perfectly as to leave no doubt on the sub- 
ject. He says: ‘‘For some time past the many 
secret contradictions and oppositions which have 
invaded my tranquil life have brought with them 
so calm and sweet a peace that nothing can be 
compared to it. Indeed, I cannot help thinking 
that they foretell the near approach of that entire 
union of my soul with God, which is not only the 
greatest but the sole ambition and passion of my 

Oh! blessed servant of Jesus Christ, how abso- 
lutely you practised that teaching which you 
impress so strongly on us in your Theotimus, 

*Senec, De Providentia, cap. iv. 

180 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

in the words of blessed Brother Giles. 
‘“One to one! one soul to one only love! one 
heart to one only God! ” 
To that only God, the King eternal, immortal, 
invisible, be honour and glory for ever and ever! 


One day he was visiting a sick person who, in 
the midst of intense suffering, not only showed 
great patience in all her words and actions, but 
plainly had the virtue deeply rooted in her heart. 
‘“ Happy woman,’’ said Blessed Francis, ‘‘ who 
has found the honey-comb in the jaws of the lion! ”’ 

Wishing, however, to make more certain that the 
patience she showed was solid and real, rooted and 
grounded in Christian charity, and such as to 
make her endure her sufferings for the love and 
for the glory of God alone, he determined to try 
her. He began to praise her constancy, to enlarge 
upon her sufferings, to express admiration at her 
courage, her silence, her good example, knowing 
that in this way he would draw from her lips the 
true language of her heart. 

Nor was he deceived, for she, sincere and abso- 
lutely patient Christian that she was, answered 
him: ‘“ Ah! Father, you do not see the rebellious 
struggles of all my senses and feelings. In the 
lower region of my soul everything is in confusion 
and disorder, and if the grace and fear of God were 
not to us as a tower of strength I should long ago 
have altogether given way and rebelled against 
God. Picture me to yourself as like the Prophet 
whom the Angel carried by one hair of his head; 

Blessed Francis’ test of patience in suffering 181 

my patience, as it were, hangs on a single thread, 
and were it not for the mighty help God is to me 
I should long ere now have been in hell. 

It is not then my virtue but the grace of God in 
me which makes me show so much courage. My 
own part in the matter is but pretence and 
hypocrisy. Were I to follow my own impulses I 
should moan, struggle, break out into passionate 
and bitter words, but God restrains my lips with bit 
and bridle, so that J dare not murmur under the 
blows dealt by His hand which I have learnt 
through His grace to love and honour.” 

Our Blessed Father, on leaving her sick-room, 
said to those who were with him, ‘‘ She has, indeed, 
true and christian patience. Instead of pitying 
her for her sufferings we ought rather to rejoice 
over them, for this high virtue is only made per- 
fect in infirmity. But do you notice how God 
hides from her own eyes the perfection which He is 
giving her? Her patience is not only courageous, 
but loving and humble; like pure balm, which, 
when unadulterated, sinks to the bottom of the 
water into which it is cast. Be careful, however, 
not to repeat to her what I have just said to you 
lest, by doing so, you should excite in her move- 
ments of vanity, and spoil the whole work of grace, 
whose waters only flow through the valley of 

Let her peacefully possess her soul in patience, 
for she is at peace even in this extremity of bitter- 


Violent sicknesses either pass quickly or they 
carry us to the grave; slow maladies drag wearily 

182 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

on and exercise the patience of the sufferers, nor 
less that of those who tend them. 

Our Blessed Father says on the subject: ‘* Long 
sicknesses are good schools of mercy for those who 
wait upon the sick and of loving patience for those 
who suffer. 

They who wait upon the sick are at the foot of 
the Cross with our Lady and St. John, whose com- 
passion they imitate; the sick man himself is on 
the Cross with our Saviour, Whose Passion he 

But how can we imitate either this compassion 
or this Passion if we do not suffer from the motive 
of the love of God? For the Blessed Virgin and 
St. John, the beloved Disciple, were moved by a 
compassion as much more sorrowful than ours, as 
their love for the Crucified, their own dearest 
Lord, was greater than ours can be. It was at the 
foot of the Cross that the sword of grief pierced 
Mary’s soul, and it was there that the beloved 
disciple drank that chalice of bitterness, which, 
after permitting him to share the glories of Thabor, 
the Saviour predicted should be his.” 

The whole life of a true Christian is one long 
period of suffering. Those who endure not with 
Jesus Christ are not fit to reign with Him. “O 
soul in grace,” says our Blessed Father, ‘‘ thou 
art not yet the spouse of Jesus glorified, but of 
Jesus crucified. This is why the rings, necklaces, 
and other ornaments which He gives you, and with 
which He is pleased to adorn you, are crosses, 
nails, and thorns; and the marriage feast He sets 
before you gall, hyssop, and vinegar. It is in 
Heaven we shall possess the rubies, diamonds, and 

Blessed Francis’ holy indifference in illness 183 

emeralds, the wine, the manna, and the honey.” 
The world is a vast quarry in which are hewn 
out and shaped those living stones which are to 
build up the heavenly Jerusalem, as the Church 
Tunsionibus, pressurts, 
Expoliti lapides 
Suis cooptantur locis, 
Per manus Artificis: 
Disponuntur permansurt 
Sacris edificus .* 
Thou too, O Church, which here we see, 
No easy task hath builded thee. 
Long did the chisels ring around ! 
Long did the mallet’s blows rebound ! 

Long worked the head, and toiled the hand ! 
Ere stood thy stones as now they stand, 


As regards our Blessed Father’s patience in 
time of sickness, I myself was with him in one only 
of his illnesses, but others, who saw him in many 
and were frequent witnesses of his patience, gentle- 
ness, and absolute indifference to suffering, tell us 
marvels on that subject. 

For my part, on the one occasion when I saw him 
stretched upon his bed, suffering with so much 
endurance and sweetness, the sight at once recalled 
to me what St. Catherine of Genoa tells us of a 
certain soul in Purgatory. This poor soul she 
represented as so perfectly united to God by charity 
that it was physically unable to utter the slightest 
complaint, or to have the faintest shadow of a desire, 
which was not absolutely in conformity with the 

*Office of the Dedication of a Church. 

184 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

divine will. Such souls, she says, wish to be in 
Purgatory exactly as long as God shall please, and 
this, with a will so contented and so constant, that 
for nothing in the whole world would they be else- 
where unless it were His will. This is exactly 
how our Blessed Father suffered, without in any 
way losing heart, because of the services which he 
might have been able to render to God and his 
neighbour had he been in health. He wished to 
suffer because to do so was the good pleasure of 
God, Who held the keys of his life and of his death, 
of his health and of his sickness, and of his whole 

If he was asked whether he would take this or 
that, physic or food, whether he would he bled or 
blistered, or the like, he had but one answer to 
give: “‘ Do with the patient what you please, God 
has put me at the disposal of the doctors.” Nothing 
could be more simple or obedient than his be- 
haviour, for he honoured God in the physicians, 
and in their remedies, as He Himself has com- 
manded us all to do. 

He always told the doctors and attendants exactly 
what was the matter with him, neither exaggerating 
his malady by undue complaints, nor making his 
suffering appear less than it really was by a forced 
and unnatural composure. The first he said was 
cowardice, the second dissimulation. Even al- 
though the inferior and sensible part of his soul 
might be under the pressure of intense pain, there 
always flashed out from his face, and especially 
from his eyes, rays of that calm light which 
illumined the superior and reasonable part of his 
nature, shining through the dark clouds of bodily 

Upon the shape of the Cross m 

affliction. Hence the weaker his body, the 
stronger became his spirit, enabling him to say 
with the Apostle : 

Gladly, therefore, will I glory in my infirmities, 
That the power of Christ may dwell in me.* 



“The Cross,” Blessed Francis says, ‘‘is com- 
posed of two pieces of wood, which represent to us 
two excellent virtues, necessary to those who desire 
to be fastened to it with Jesus Christ, and on it to 
live a dying life, and on it to die the death which 
is life. These two great virtues most due to 
christians are humility and patience.’’ 

He wished, however, that those two virtues 
should be rooted and grounded in charity, that is 
to say, not only be practised in charity, that is, in a 
state of grace, without which they are of no value 
for Heaven, but also from the motive of charity. 
This is how he expresses himself :— 

‘Divine love will teach you that in imitation of 
the great Lover we must be on the Cross in com- 
pany with humility, deeming ourselves unworthy 
to endure anything for Him Who endured so much 
for us; and in company with patience, so as not to 
wish to come down from the Cross, not even all 
our life long if so it pleases the Eternal Father. 

The motto of Blessed Teresa was, To suffer or to 
die; for divine iove had attached this faithful 
servant of Jesus crucified so closely to the Cross 
that she wished not to live, save that she might 
have opportunities of suffering for Him. > 

"3 Cor. sii. g: 

186 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

The great and seraphic St. Francis considered 
that God had forgotten him and lovingly com- 
plained when he had passed a day untouched by 
any suffering; and just as he called poverty his 
mistress, so he called pain his sister.” 

Our Blessed Father’s motto was ‘‘ To love or to 
die.’ In his Treatise on the Love of God he cries 
out: ‘‘ To love, or to die! To die and to love! To 
die to all other love in order to live to Jesus’ love, 
that we may not die eternally, but that living in 
Thy eternal love, O Saviour of our souls, we may 
eternally sing, Vive Jesus. Live Jesus. I love 
Jesus. Live Jesus, Whom I love! I love Jesus, 
Who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.’’* 


It was one day reported very seriously to Blessed 
Francis as though it were some misdemeanor, that 
one of his penitents who was accustomed to wear on 
her breast a rich diamond ornament, had had the 
diamonds made up into a cross which she wore in 
the same manner as before, and that this was a 
cause of scandal to certain persons. ‘* Ah! he cried, 
how true it is that the Cross is an occasion of 
scandal to some, and of edification to others! I do 
not know who advised this lady to do what she has 
done, but for my part I am much edified, and only 
wish that all the gew-gaws and trinkets worn by 
women could be altered in the same holy manner. 
That would indeed be to make vessels of the Taber- 
nacle out of their mirrors.” f 

Among his letters I came across lately and with 
much pleasure, one which I think must have 

“Book xii. c. 13. tExod. xxxviii. 8. 

A diamond cross 187 

been written to this very lady. In it he says: ‘‘When 
I last had the pleasure of seeing you, dear madam, 
you were wearing outwardly on your heart a cross; 
love it fervently, I beseech you. Itisall gold if you 
look at it with loving eyes. On one side it is true 
that you see the Beloved of your heart, dead, cruci- 
fied amid nails and thorns; but on the other side 
you will find a cluster of precious stones ready to 
adorn the crown of glory which awaits you, if only, 
meanwhile, you wear lovingly the crown of thorns 
with your King who willed to suffer so much that 
He might enter into His joy.” 

To a lady advanced in years and distinguished 
by her piety, who was living in my diocese, and 
whom, out of reverence and affection, he used to 
call his mother, he wrote as follows, when the in- 
firmities of old age were pressing heavily upon her: 
“ I see very plainly that you must from henceforth 
accustom yourself to the maladies and infirmities 
which declining years bring with them. Ah, dear 
Lord! What happiness for a soul dedicated to God, 
to be much tried by suffering, before quitting this 
life! My dearest mother, how can we learn the 
lesson of generous and fervent love save amid 
thorns, crosses, languor, and faintness, and more 
especially when these sufferings are prolonged and 
lingering. Our dear Saviour showed us the 
measure of His boundless love by that of His 
labours, and of His sufferings. Show, my dear 
mother, your love to the Bridegroom of your heart 
on the bed of pain; for it was on that bed that He 
fashioned your heart, even before it came into 
existence, He beholding it as yet only in His divine 
plan. Ah! this Divine Saviour has reckoned up 

188 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

all your pains, all your sorrows, and has paid with 
His Precious Blood for all the patience and the love 
which you need in order rightly to direct your 
labours to His glory and to your own salvation. 
Content yourself with calmly desiring to be all that 
God wills you to be.” 


Our Blessed Father had a special reverence for 
the picture of Magdalen at the foot of the Cross, 
calling it sometimes the library of his thoughts. 
Perhaps this representation was before his mind’s 
eye, when just before he rendered up his soul to 
God he murmured these words: Wash me yet more 
from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.* 
““Oh!” he exclaimed, when he was looking one 
day at this picture in my house at Belley, ‘* how 
happy, and how profitable an exchange this peni- 
tent made! She bestowed tears on the Feet of Jesus 
Christ, and in return those Feet gave back to her 
Blood, but Blood that washed away all her sins, for 
Christ has cleansed us from every stain in His 
Blood, and by the sprinkling of this hyssop has 
made us, coal-black though we were, white as 
snow! Oh, gracious rain made by God to fall upon 
His inheritance, how sweet, how much to be de- 
sired thou art! ” 

‘Magdalen seeks our Saviour while she holds 
Him. She demands Him of Himself. She does 
not see Him in the form she looked for: therefore, 
unsatisfied, she seeks Him away from Himself. 

She expected to see Him in His robe of glory, 
not in the poor garb of a gardener; nevertheless 

*Psalm 1. 4. 

Holy Magdalen at the foot of the Cross 1 9? 

she knew that it was He when He uttered her name 
Mary .* 

My dear sister, my daughter, it is our Lord in 
the clothing of a gardener whom you meet every 
day in one place or. another, and in the various 
mortifications which present themselves to you. 

You wish He would offer you grander mortifica- 
tions. Oh! my God! the grandest are not the 
best. Do you not believe that He says to you also 
Mary, Mary? Ah! before you see Him in His 
glory, He wishes to plant in your garden many 
flowers, small and lowly indeed, but such as He 
loves. That is why He wears a gardener’s dress. 

May our hearts be for ever united to His Heart, 
and our wills to His good pleasure.” 


An ecclesiastic in Blessed Francis’ diocese, had, 
because of his vicious and scandalous life, been 
sent to prison. After a few days’ sojourn there he 
testified the deepest repentance, and with tears and 
promises of amendment entreated the officers of the 
prison to allow him to be taken to the Holy Prelate, 
who had already pardoned many of his offences, 
that he might at his feet plead again for forgive- 

This request was at first refused, as the officers 
considered that his scandalous life deserved punish- 
ment, if only as an example to others, and they 
knew that with Blessed Francis, to see a sinner was 
to pity and forgive him. 

At last, however, they yielded to the priest’s pas- 

¥John xx. 16. 

190 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

sionate entreaties, and he was taken before his 
Bishop. Throwing himself on his knees before the 
Holy Man, he implored mercy, declaring that he 
would lead a new life, and set an example of all that 
was edifying, whereas before he had given nothing 
but scandal. Blessed Francis on his part knelt 
down before the culprit, and with many tears, ad- 
dressed these remarkable words to him: ‘‘ I, too,” 
he said, ‘“‘ ask you to have pity upon me, and upon 
all of us who are priests in this diocese, upon the 
Church, and upon the Catholic, Apostolic, and 
Roman religion, the honour of which you are ruin- 
ing by your scandalous life. For that life gives 
occasion to the adversaries of our Faith, who are 
always on the watch like dragons to detect our 
slightest failings, to condemn us. For a priest to 
sin, I tell you, is to give occasion to devils to mock 
at the lives of our clergy, and to blaspheme our 
Holy Faith. I ask you also to have pity on your- 
self, and on your own soul which you are losing 
for all eternity, and to seek anew God’s favour. I 
exhort you in the name of Jesus Christ to return to 
God by atrue repentance. I conjure you to do this 
‘by all that is most holy, and sacred in Heaven, or 
on earth, by the Blood of Jesus Christ which you 
profane, by the lovingkindness of the Saviour, 
whom you crucify afresh, by the Spirit of Grace 
against whom you are rebelling.’’ These remon- 
strances, or rather the Spirit of God speaking by 
the mouth of this zealous Pastor, had such effect 
that the guilty man was by this change of the Right 
Hand of the Most High converted into a perfectly 
different being, and became as notable an example 
of virtue as he had been an occasion of scandal. 

Upon the power of Gentleness and Patience 191 

Again—There was in his diocese a certain eccle- 
siastic who for very grave faults, and for the 
scandal occasioned by them, was not only im- 
prisoned and treated while in prison with the 
greatest severity, but moreover, after regaining his 
liberty, remained for six months suspended from 
all ecclesiastical functions. 

Our Blessed Father most unwillingly yielded to 
the entreaties of the officers of justice not in any 
way to interfere in the matter, but to let the 
law take its course, and to leave the offender 
in their hands to be treated with exceptional 

So little, however, did this mode of dealing with 
the criminal answer, that, though while in prison 
he had been tractable, humble, lavish of promises 
of amendment, and apparently penitent, when once 
he had shaken off his fetters he relapsed into all his 
old evil habits, and passed from bad to worse. The 
authorities were in fine constrained to deprive him 
of his benefice, and to banish him from the diocese. 

A few years later a very similar case occurred 
in which the officers showed the same unwillingness 
to permit the intervention of Blessed Francis, and 
this from no want of respect or love for him, but, 
as before, from a fear lest his gentleness and 
charity should hinder the course of justice. 

In this case, however, the holy Bishop was firm. 
“If, he said, “‘ you forbid him to appear before 
me, you will not forbid me to appear before him. 
You do not wish him to come out of prison, suffer 
me then to go to prison with him, and to be the 
companion of his captivity. We must comfort this 
poor brother, who entreats us for help. I promise 

192 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

you that he shall not leave the prison except with 
your leave.” 

Accompanied by the officers of justice he then 
proceeded to the prison. No sooner did he see the 
poor man kneeling humbly before his Bishop, and 
accusing himself of his sins, than the holy Prelate 
embraced him tenderly, and turning to his gaolers 
said: ‘‘Is it possible that you do not see that God 
has already pardoned this man? Is there any con- 
demnation for one who is in Christ Jesus? If God 
justifies him, who shall condemn him? Certainly 
not L.” 

Then, turning to the culprit, he said: ‘Go in 
peace, my brother, and sin no more. I know that 
you are truly penitent.” 

The officials protested that the man was a hypo- 
crite, and like that other suspended priest would 
himself soon show that they were right. “‘ It is, 
however, possible,” replied the Saint, “‘ that had 
you treated that other priest with lenity, he, too, 
would have truly repented; beware, then, lest his 
soul should one day be required at your hands. 
For my part, if you will accept me as this man’s 
bail, I am ready to pledge my word for his good 
behaviour. I am certain that he is sincerely re- 
pentant, and even if he is deceiving me, he will do 
more injury to himself than to me, or others.” 

The guilty man, bursting into tears, declared 
himself willing to undergo any penance that might 
be imposed upon him, and even to give up his bene- 
fice of his own accord, if the Bishop should judge 
this to be the proper course. 

‘“ I should be much grieved if you were to take 
that step,” replied Blessed Francis, ‘‘ the more so as 
I hope that, just as the steeple in falling crushed 

Upon the power of Gentleness and Patience 193 

the church, so now being set up again it will make 
it more beautiful than before.” 

The officials gave way, the prison doors were 
thrown open, and after a month’s suspension, 
a divinis, the penitent resumed all the duties of his 
sacred office. henceforth he lived so holy and 
exemplary a life as fully to verify the predictions 
of his holy Bishop, who, when these two memor- 
able instances, one of perversion and the other of 
conversion, were once afterwards discussed before 
him, said: “It is better by gentleness to make 
penitents than by severity to make hypocrites.” 

I will now relate some other instances of Blessed 
Francis’ extraordinary gentleness and of its soften- 
ing effect upon others. 

He had made himself surety for a considerable 
sum of money for one of his friends, who, at the 
time when payment was due, happened to be in 
Piedmont levying troops for the service of His 
Highness the Duke of Savoy. 

The creditor becoming impatient for the dis- 
charge of the debt, applied to the good Bishop, and 
insisted upon his making the money good, paying 
no attention whatever either to his gentle remon- 
strances, or to his assurances that the debtor, 
though unable at present to leave his troops, would 
do so as soon as was consistent with his duty to his 
Prince and his country, and that meantime his 
regular payment of the interest, and the knowledge 
that he was worth a hundred times more than the 
sum owing, ought surely to satisfy the creditor. 

Blessed Francis remained perfectly calm and un- 
moved amid the storm of invectives and reproaches 
that followed this remonstrance, and which were 


194 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

accompanied by furious demands reiterated again 
and again, that he himself as surety should repay 
the money. 

At last, speaking with incredible gentleness, the 
Saint said: ‘f Son, I am your Pastor. Can you as 
one of my flock, have the heart to take the bread 
out of my mouth in place of helping to feed me? 
You know that I am much straitened in circum- 
stances, and have really only barely enough for my 
maintenance. I have never had in my possession 
the sum which you demand of me, but for which, 
out of charity, I made myself surety: do you wish 
to seize for it my goods, rather than those of the 
real debtor? Well, if so, I have some patrimony. 
I give it up to you: there is my furniture. Turn it 
all out into the public square, and sell it. I put 
myself absolutely into your hands to do as you 
please. I only ask of you to love me for God’s 
sake, and not to offend Him in any way by anger, 
hatred, or scandal. If you will do this I am con- 

The only reply to this was a fresh outburst of 
furious invectives and accusations, to which our 
Blessed Father replied with unalterable serenity : 
“ Sir, since my indiscretion in making myself surety 
for my friend is the cause of your anger, I will with 
all the haste possible do what I can to satisfy you. 
At the same time, I wish you to know that had you 
plucked out one of my eyes, I would have looked 
as affectionately at you with the other, as at the 
dearest friend I have in the world.” 

The creditor retired, covered indeed with con- 
fusion, but still muttering injurious words, and 
calling the holy Bishop a hypocrite, a bigot, and 

Upon the power of Gentleness and Patience 195 

the like. Blessed Francis immediately sent an 
account of the affair to the real debtor, who came 
as quickly as was possible and at once discharged 
the debt. The creditor, full of shame and repen- 
tance, hastened to ask pardon of our Blessed 
Father, and he, receiving the prodigal with open 
arms, treated him ever afterwards with special ten- 
derness, calling him his friend regained. 

Again, when he was in Paris in 1619, having 
gone there with the Cardinal of Savoy, who wished 
to be present at the marriage of his brother, the 
Prince of Piedmont, with Madame Christine of 
France, the King’s sister, our Blessed Father was 
told that a man of tolerably good position profess- 
ing the so-called Reformed Religion wished to see 

Introduced into the Bishop’s apartment, the 
Protestant, without the smallest sign of reverence, 
or even courtesy, addressed him in these words: 

‘“ Are you what they call the Bishop of 
Geneva? ” 

“ Sir,” replied our holy Prelate, ‘‘that is my 
title, though in that city I am not so much in request 
as I am in the other parts of the diocese committed 
to my charge.” 

“Well, I should just like to know from you, who 
are regarded everywhere as an apostolic man, 
whether the Apostles were in the habit of going 
about in carriages? ” 

Our Blessed Father, in telling me this story, 
owned that he was somewhat taken aback by the 
suddenness of this attack! Collecting his thoughts, 
however, and remembering the case of St. Philip 
the Deacon, who, though not the Apostle of that 

196 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

name, was undoubtedly an apostolic man, and who 
went up. into the chariot of Queen Candace’s 
eunuch, he answered quietly that they did so when 
convenience required it, and the occasion for doing 
so presented itself. 

‘““ I should be very glad,” replied the man, scorn- 
fully, “if you could show me that in Scripture.” 
The Bishop quoted the instance to which we have 
just referred. His opponent, not noticing the fact 
of this not being St. Philip the Apostle, retorted, 
‘“ But this carriage was not his own, it belonged 
to the eunuch, who invited him to come up into 
it.” “I never told you,” answered Francis, ‘‘ that 
the carriage was his own. I only said that when 
the oceasion presented itself the first preachers of 
the Gospel rode in carriages.” ‘‘ But notin gilded 
coaches such as yours, sir,’’ returned the Protest- 
ant, ‘f nor drawn by such splendid horses, nor 
driven by acoachman in such superb livery. Why, 
the King himself has nothing better! This is what 
I complain of ; and this it is in you which scandalizes 
me. And you, above all, who play the Saint, and 
whom the papists look upon as such. Fine Saints, 
forsooth, who go to Paradise so much at their 

Blessed Francis, seeing at once where the shoe 
pinched, answered gently, “ Alas, sir, the people 
of Geneva who have seized upon the property 
belonging to my See have cut me down so close 
as regards money that I have barely enough to live 
upon in the most frugal way. As to a carriage, 
I have never had one, nor money enough to buy 
one.’ “ Then that splendid carriage, which is, so to 
speak, regal, in which I see you every day driving 

Upon the power of Gentleness and Patience 197 

about the city is not your own?” rejoined the 
antagonist. ‘‘ Certainly not,” replied the Bishop, 
“and you are quite right in calling it regal, for 
it belongs to His Majesty, and is one of those set 
apart by him for people who, like myself, are 
mere attendants of the Pyinces of Savoy. The 
royal livery worn by the servants ought to have 
Shown you this!’’ ‘* Now, indeed,” said the 
Protestant, ‘‘I am satisfied, and I esteem you. I 
see that you are in the right, and that, notwith- 
standing, you are humble.” After some further 
remarks he put some questions as to the birth and 
manner of life of the Saint, and was so perfectly 
contented with his replies that he quitted him with 
expressions of esteem and affection, and ever after- 
wards held him in the highest respect. 

Again, preaching during an Advent and Lent 
at Grenoble, not only a great concourse of Catholics 
flocked to hear him, but also such numbers of 
Protestants of the Geneva following that their 
ministers became alarmed and held meetings to 
decide what measures should be taken to avert a 
storm, which threatened desolation to their strong- 
holds and was fast emptying their conventicles. 
They decided at last on a personal conflict with 
their opponent, choosing one of their most furious 
pastors, a man of violent temper and bitter tongue, 
to argue with Blessed Francis, and, as they 
expected, to worst him in acontroversy. The holy 
Bishop, who had already had much practice and 
success in this kind of warfare at Thonon, Ternier, 
and Gaillard, the bailiwicks of his diocese which 
he had brought back into the bosom of the True 
Church, cheerfully agreed to the proposal. In 

198 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

answer to the remonstrances of his friends, and 
especially of one gentleman of Belley, a man of the 
greatest probity and piety, who painted the Pro- 
testant ministers in the blackest colours, and told 
the Bishop that insults would literally be heaped 
upon him, he replied, ‘‘ Well, that is exactly what 
we want; this contempt is just what I ask. For 
how great is the glory to Himself that God will 
derive from my confusion!’’ On his friends remind- 
ing him that he would be exposing his sacred 
office to derision, ‘‘ What of that?” replied the 
Bishop, ‘‘ did not our Saviour suffer shame for us 
—were not insults heaped upon Him? ” 

“Oh,” said the other, ‘‘ you aim too high.” 

“To tell you the truth,” said our Saint, “ I am 
hoping that God will give me the grace to endure 
insults without end, for when we are finely 
humbled He will be gloriously exalted. You will 
see conversion upon conversion following the train 
of this affair, a thousand falling on the left hand 
and ten thousand on the right. God is wont at 
all times to make our infamy redound to His 
honour. Did not the Apostles come forth rejoicing 
from those assemblies in which they had suffered 
contumely for the name of Jesus? Take courage, 
God will help us; those who hope in Him never lack 
any good thing and are never confounded.” 

Was it possible to carry patience further than 
this? Doubtless, had the meeting taken place, the 
envenomed darts of heresy would have glanced 
aside from the spotless, shining shield of Faith 
carried by Blessed Francis, but the devil, fearing 
to be worsted in the fight, suggested so many 
prudent reasons to the Protestant Minister’s 


Upon the power of Gentleness and Patience 199 

friends, who, in reality, had their doubts about 
both his virtue and his capacity for conducting the 
conference that they got it forbidden by the 
Lieutenant of the King, though himself at that time 
a heretic. 

Another striking example of patience. A person 
of some influence and consideration once applied 
to Blessed Francis asking him to obtain an 
ecclesiastical preferment for a certain Priest. The 
Bishop replied that in the matter of conferring 
benefices he had, of his free will, tied his own 
hands, having left the choosing of fitting subjects 
to the decision of a board of examiners, who were 
to recommend the person to be appointed after 
due examination of the merits and talents of the 
candidates. As for himself, he said, he simply 
presided over the meeting. Should, however, the 
gentleman’s friend present himself as a candidate, 
he, the Bishop, would promise to bear the recom- 
mendation in mind. The petitioner felt piqued 
at this answer, and quite losing his temper, replied 
to the Bishop in the most disrespectful and even 
insulting manner. The gentle firmness with which 
his anger was met only infuriated him the 
more, and he eventually lost all command over 
himself. It was in vain that the Bishop tried to 
soothe him by proposing to examine the claimant 
privately. This had no effect. 

The Saint then said gently but gravely: ‘‘ Do 
you then wish me to give the charge of my sheep 
blindfolded and to the first comer? Ask yourself 
if there is reasonableness in such a request as you 
are making? ”’ 

But not even this appeal to his reason turned 

200 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

the flood of the man’s wrath, and he quitted the 
Bishop’s presence in a passion of disrespect im- 
possible to describe. A most excellent Priest who 
had been in the room all through the interview 
asked the Bishop, after the departure of his im- 
pudent visitor, how he could bear such treatment 
with the patience he showed. ‘* Well,’ he 
answered, “‘it was not he himself that spoke, it 
was his passion. After all he is one of my best 
friends, and you will see that my silence on this 
occasion will only make our friendship the stronger. 

More than this. Has not God from all eternity 
foreseen that these insults would be offered to 
me to-day, and foreseen, too, that He would bestow 
on me such grace as would enable me to bear them 
joyfully? Should I not drain the chalice held to 
my lips by the hands of so loving a Father? Oh! 
how sweet is this inebriating cup, offered to me by 
a hand which from my infancy I have learnt to 
adore.” ‘* But,” returned the Priest, ‘‘ were not 
your feelings stirred at all by this treatment? ’’ 

“ Well,” replied the Bishop, ‘‘I tried to over- 
come them by fixing my thoughts on the good 
qualities of the man whose friendship I have so 
long and so happily enjoyed. Then, too, I hope 
that when this storm in a tea-cup has subsided 
and the clouds of passion have lifted, my friend 
will come back to me with peace in his heart and 
serenity on his countenance.”’ 

Nor was the Saint’s expectation disappointed. 
His friend did come back, and with many tears 
begged his forgiveness; a forgiveness which was, 
you may be sure, granted so fully and with such 
loving readiness as to increase the fervour and 
sincerity of their old and mutual affection. 

A rejoinder both striking and instructive 201 


In the course of his long mission in the Chablais, 
he one day preached on that text which commands 
us to offer the right cheek to him who smites us 
on the left. As he came down from the pulpit he 
was accosted by a Protestant who asked him if he 
felt that he could practise what he had just preached, 
or whether he was not rather one of those who 
preach but do not practise. 

The Saint replied: ‘‘My dear brother, I am 
but a weak man and beset by infirmities. At the 
same time, miserable though I feel myself to be, 
God teaches me what I ought to do. I cannot tell 
you what I should actually do, because though the 
spirit is willing, the flesh is weak. At the same 
time we know, that while without grace we can 
do nothing, with its aid we can do everything; a 
reed in the hand of grace becomes a mighty staff 
that cannot be broken. If we are told to be willing 
to give our life itself in defence of our faith, how 
much more does it behove us to endure some small 
affront for the maintenance of charity! Moreover, 
were I to be such a recreant to the grace of God as 
not to bear an insult of this kind patiently, let me 
remind you that the same Gospel which reproves 
those who preach but do not practise, warns us 
against following the example of such teachers, 
though it bids us do what they tell us to do.” 

“ Yet,” resumed the other, ‘‘ our Saviour never 
presented the other cheek to the servant of the 
High Priest who struck Him; on the contrary He 
resented the act.’’ 

“ What!” cried the holy Bishop, ‘‘ you place 

202 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

our Lord on a level with those who preach but do 
not practise! That is blasphemy! As for us, we 
entertain more reverent feelings towards that 
Model of all perfection. It is not for us to 
comment on the actions of Him who, as we firmly 
believe, could not act otherwise than most perfectly. 
Neither is it for us to dare to say: ‘ Why hast Thou 
done thus?’ Yet we may well remember His 
zeal for the salvation of that impious man’s soul, 
and the remonstrances which He deigned to use 
in order to bring him to repentance. Nay, did He 
not offer not only His cheek to the smiter, but His 
whole sacred Body to the cruel scourging which 
covered Him with wounds from Head to Foot? ” 


He was once asked which, in his opinion, was 
the most perfect of the eight Beatitudes. It was 
thought that he would answer: ‘‘ The second, 
Blessed are the meek,” but it was not so; he 
gave the preference to the eighth: Blessed are they 
that suffer for justice’ sake. He explained his 
preference by saying that ‘‘the life of those who 
are persecuted for justice’ sake is hidden in God with 
Jesus Christ, and becomes conformable to His 
image; for was not He persecuted all through His 
earthly life for justice’ sake, although He fulfilled it 
in all its perfection? Such persons are, as it were, 
shrouded by the veil which hides the countenance of 
God. They appear sinful, but they are just; dead, 
but they live; fools, but they are wise; in a word, 
though despised in the sight of men, they are 
dear to God with whom they live for ever. 

Should God have given me one particle of justice, 

Ms Gravity and Affability 203 

enabling me thereby to do some little good, it would 
be my wish that in the Day of Judgment, when 
all secrets are revealed, God alone should know my 
righteousness, and that my sinful actions should 
be proclaimed to all creatures.”’ 


Grace produced in him that wonderful and per- 
fectly harmonious blending of gravity and 
affability, which was perhaps his most distinguish- 
ing characteristic. There was in his whole 
demeanour and in the very expression of his face 
a lofty and dignified beauty which inspired rever- 
ence and even a sort of fear—that is, such fear 
as engenders respect and makes any undue 
familiarity impossible. Yet, at the same time he 
displayed such sweetness and gentleness as to en- 
courage all who approached him. Noone, however 
conscious of his own want of attractiveness, feared 
a repulse from the holy Bishop, and all, feeling 
sure of a welcome, were only eager to please and 
satisfy him. 

For my own part I must confess that when I 
succeeded in doing anything which he was able to 
praise, and which consequently gave him pleasure, 
I was so happy and elated that I felt as if I were 
raised to the seventh heaven! Indeed, had he not 
taught me to refer everything to God, many of my 
actions would, I fear, have stopped half-way 
thither. People of high standing in society, accus- 
tomed even to come into close contact with royalty 
itself, have assured me that, in the presence of our 
Saint, they felt a subtle influence guarding, re- 
straining, elevating them as no other companion- 
ship, however noble and distinguished, could ever 

204 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

do. It was as though in him they saw some reflec- 
tion of the all-penetrating intelligence of God 
Himself, lighting up the inmost recesses of their 
heart, and laying bare its mysteries. 

Yet his affability was no less marvellous, making 
itself felt the instant you came in contact with him. 
It was not like a quality or grace acquired; it was 
not in any way apart from his own personality, it 
was as if he were affability personified. Hence 
that power of winning over others, of making him- 
self all things to all men, of gaining the support of 
so many in his plans and schemes, all of which 
had but one aim and object, namely, the increase 
of the glory of God and the promotion of the 
salvation of souls. 


He was once asked to visit in prison a poor 
criminal already condemned to death, but who 
could not be induced to make his confession. The 
unhappy man had committed crimes so terrible 
that he despaired of the forgiveness even of God, 
and having often during his lifetime met death face 
to face in battle and in duels, he appeared to be 
quite ready again to meet it boldly; nay, so 
hardened was he by the devil that he even spoke 
calmly of hell, as of the abode destined for him 
for eternity. 

Our Blessed Father finding him in this frame of 
mind, and altogether cold, hard, and reckless, pro- 
claiming himself the prey of Satan and a victim 
prepared for hell, thus addressed him: ‘* My 
brother, would you not rather be the prey of God 

How Blessed Francis, ce. 205 

and a victim of the Cross of Jesus Christ?” 
‘“ What,” cried the criminal, ‘‘ do you think that 
God would have anything to do with a victim as 
repulsive as Iam? ”’ 

“Oh, God!” was the silent prayer of Blessed 
Francis, ‘‘ remember Thine ancient mercies and the 
promise which Thou hast made never to quench 
utterly the smoking flax nor wholly to break the 
bruised reed. Thou who willest not the death of 
the sinner, but rather that he should be converted 
and live, make happy the last moments of this 
poor soul.” 

Then he spoke aloud replying to the despairing 
words of the poor wretch, for, horrifying though 
they were, they had proved to the skilled work- 
man that there was something left to work upon, 
that faith in God was not vet wholly dead in that 
pocr heart. ‘‘ At any rate, would you not rather 
abandon yourself to God than to the evil one?” 
‘“ Most assuredly,’’ replied the criminal, ‘‘ but it 
isa likely thing indeed that God would have any- 
thing to do with a man like me!” ‘It was for 
men like you,” returned the Bishop, ‘‘ that the 
Eternal Father sent His Son into the world, nay 
for worse than you, even for Judas and for the mis- 
creants who crucified Him. Jesus Christ came to 
save not the just, but sinners.” 

“But,” cried the other, ‘‘can you assure 
me that it would not be presumption on my 
part to have recourse to His mercy?” ‘‘ It would 
be great presumption,” replied our Saint, “‘ to think 
that His mercy was not infinite, far above all sins 
not only possible but conceivable, and that His 
redemption was not so plentiful, but that it could 

206 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

make grace superabound where sin had poured 
forth a flood of evils. On the contrary, His mercy, 
which is over all His works, and which always over- 
rides His justice, becomes so much the greater the 
greater the mountain of our sins. 

Upon that very mountain he sets up the throne 
of His mercy.’ With words such as these, kind- 
ling, or rather re-animating the spark of faith not 
yet wholly dead in the soul of the wretched man, 
he relighted the flame of hope, which up to that 
moment was quite extinguished, and little by little 
softened and tamed the man’s natural temper, 
rendered savage by despair. He led him on at 
last to resignation, and persuaded him to cast him- 
self into the arms of God for death and for life; 
to deal with him according to His own good 
pleasure, for his whole future in this world, or in 
the next. 

“But He will damn me,” said the man, ‘‘ for 
He is just.” ‘*‘ No, He will pardon you,” replied 
Blessed Francis, “‘if you cry to Him for mercy, 
for He is merciful and has promised forgiveness 
to whoever implores it of Him with a humble and 
contrite heart.” ‘‘ Well,” replied the criminal, 
‘let Him damn me if he pleases—I am His, He 
can do with me what the potter does with his 
clay.” ‘‘Nay,’’ replied the holy Bishop, “‘ say 
rather with David, I am Thine, O Lord, save 
me.” Not to make the story too long, I may tell 
you that the holy Bishop brought this man to 
confession, repentance, and contrition, and that he 
died with great constancy, sincerely acknowledging 
his sins and abandoning himself entirely to the 
most holy will of God. The last words which our 


Upon Mortification 207 

Blessed Father made him utter were these: “O 

Jesus, I give myself up to Thee—I abandon mysel}! 
wholly to Thee.” 


It is far better to mortify the body through the 
spirit than the spirit through the body. To deaden 
and beat down the body instead of trying to reduce 
the swelling of an inflated spirit is like pulling 
back a horse by its tail. It is behaving like 
Balaam, who beat the ass which carried him, 
instead of taking heed to the peril which threatened 
him and which the poor beast was miraculously 
warning him to avoid. 

One of the three first Postulants who entered the 
Convent of the Visitation, established by me at 
Belley, left it before taking the novices’ habit 
being unable to understand how Religious could 
be holy in an Order in which she saw so few 
austerities practised. She has since then, however, 
been disabused of her error, and has repented of it. 

At that time she was under the guidance of those 
who considered that holiness consisted in morti- 
fications in respect of food and clothing: as if the 
stings of the flesh cease to be felt when you no 
longer eat of it, and as if you could not be tem- 
perate over partridges and gluttonous over cab- 

Our Blessed Father, writing to a novice in one 
of his convents who was perplexed on this sub- 
ject, says: ‘‘ The devil does not trouble himself 
much about us if, while macerating our bodies, 
we are at the same time doing our own will, for he 
does not fear austerity but obedience. 

208 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

What greater austerity can there be than to keep 
our will in subjection and in continual obedience. 
Reassure yourself then, O lover of voluntary 
penance, if, indeed, the works of self-love deserve 
to be called penances! When you took the habit 
after many prayers and much consideration, it was 
thought good that you should enter the school of 
obedience and renunciation of your own will rather 
than remain the sport of your own judgment and 
of yourself. — 

Do not then let yourself be shaken, but remain 
where our Lord has placed you. It is true that 
there you suffer great mortifications of heart, see- 
ing yourself so imperfect and so deserving of 
reproof and correction, but is not this the very 
thing you ought to seek, mortification of heart and 
a continual sense of your own misery? Yet, you 
say, you cannot do such penance as you would. 
My dear daughter, tell me what better penance can 
be given to an erring heart than to bear a continual 
cross and to be always renouncing self-love? ” 


Blessed Francis was no great friend of unusual 
mortifications, and did not wish them to be prac- 
tised except in the pressing necessity of violent 

In such cases it was his desire that those so 
the body, so also by these caustic remedies holiness 
is often preserved in the soul. | 
assailed should try to repel force by force, employ- 
ing that holy violence which takes heaven by storm, 
for, as by cutting and burning health is restored to 

Upon the same subject 209 

He used to say that to those who made all kinds 
of exterior austerities their custom, the custom in 
time becomes a second nature ;! that those who had 
hardened their skin no longer felt any incon- 
venience from cold, from hard couches, or coarse 
garments, and that when the flame of concupis- 
cence kindled this dry wood they possessed no 
remedy which they could apply to extinguish the 

They are like the pagan king, who had so 
accustomed himself to feed upon poison that when 
he wished to end his miseries with his life by taking 
it, he was obliged to live on against his will, and 
to serve as a sport to his enemies. 

The devil cares very little about our body being 
laid low so long as he can hold on to us by the vices 
of the soul; and so cunning is he that often out of 
bodily mortifications, he extracts matter for vanity. 

Our holy Bishop wrote as follows to a person 
who regretted that her health prevented her from 
continuing her accustomed austerities : 

“ Since you do not find yourself any longer able 
to practise corporal mortifications and the severities 
of penance, and since it is not at all expedient 
that you should think of doing so, on which point 
we are perfectly agreed, keep your heart calm and 
recollected in the presence of its Saviour; and as 
far as possible do what you may have to do solely 
to please God, and suffer whatever you may have 
to suffer according to His disposal of events in this 
life with the same intention. Thus God will possess 

1Note.—It is not to be inferred that Saint Francis coun- 
tenanced self-indulgence. He only wished to remove the 

idea common in his day, that devotion must be accompanied 
by austerity.—[ Ed. ] 


210 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

you wholly and will graciously allow you to possess 
Him one day eternally.” 

With regard to the various kinds of mortifica- 
tion, that which is inward and hidden is far more 
excellent than that which is exterior, the former 
not being compatible, as is the latter, with 
hypocrisy, vanity, or indiscretion. 

Again, those mortifications which come upon us 
from without, either directly from God or through 
men by His permission, are always superior to 
those which depend upon our own choice and which 
are the offspring of our will. 

Many, however, find here a stumbling block, 
being very eager to embrace mortifications sug- 
gested by their own inclinations, which, after all, 
however apparently severe, are really easy because 
they are what nature itself wants. 

On the other hand, mortifications which come 
to them from without and through others, however 
light they may be, they find insupportable. For 
example, a person will eagerly make use of dis- 
ciplines, hair-shirts, and fasting, and yet will be 
so tender of his reputation that if once in a way 
laughed at or spoken against, he will become 
almost beside himself, robbed of his rest and even 
sometimes of his reason; and will perhaps in the 
end be driven to the most deplorable extremities. 

Another will throw himself with ardour into the 
practice of prayer, penance, silence, and such like 
devotions, but will break out into a fury of im- 
patience and complain indignantly and unre- 
strainedly at the loss of a law-suit, or at the slightest 
damage done to his property. 

Another will give alms liberally and make 

Upon the same subject 211 

magnificent foundations for the relief of the poor 
and sick, but will groan and tremble with fear when 
himself threatened with infirmity or sickness, how- 
ever slightly ; and upon experiencing the least pos- 
sible bodily pain, will give vent to interminable 

In proportion as people are more or less attached 
to honours, gain, or mere pleasures, they bear with 
less or more patience the hindrances to them; nor 
do the majority of men seriously consider that it is 
the hand of God which gives and which takes away, 
which kills and which makes alive, which exalts 
and which casts down, as it pleases Him. 

In order to heal this spiritual malady in a certain 
person our Blessed Father wrote to her: ‘“‘ Often 
and with all your heart kiss the crosses which God 
has laid upon your shoulders. Do not consider 
whether they are of precious and sweet-scented 
wood or not. And, indeed, they are more truly 
crosses when they are of coarse, common, ill-smell- 
ing wood. It is strange, but one particular chant 
keeps ever coming back to my mind, and it is the 
only one I know. It is the canticle of the divine 
Lamb; sad, indeed, but at the same time harmoni- 
ous and beautiful—Father, not my will, but Thine 
be done.’’* 


One day when we were talking about that holy 
liberty of spirit of which he thought so highly, as 
being one of the great aids to charity, Blessed 
Francis told me the following anecdote, which is a 

*Luke xxii. 42. 
1The Saint is here speaking of fasts of devotion, not of 
those of obligation.—[Ed. ] 

212 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

most practical illustration of his feelings on the 

He had been visited by a Prelate, whom, with his 
accustomed hospitality and kindness, he pressed to 
remain with him for several days. When Friday 
evening came, our Blessed Father went to the Pre- 
late’s room inviting him to come to supper, which 
was quite ready. 

‘“ Supper !” cried his guest. ‘‘ This is not a day 
for supper! Surely, the least one can do is to fast 
once a week!’’ Our holy Bishop at once left him 
to do as he pleased, desiring the servants to take his 
collation to his room, while he himself joined the 
chaplains of the Prelate and his own household at 
the supper table. 

The chaplains told him that this Prelate was so 
exact and punctilious in discharging all his religious 
exercises, of prayer, fasting, and such like, that he 
never abated one of them, whatever company he 
might have. Not that he refused to sit down to table 
with his visitors on fast days, but that he ate 
nothing but what was permitted by the rule he had 
imposed on himself. Our Blessed Father, after 
telling me this, went on to say that condescension 
was the daughter of charity, just as fasting is the 
sister of obedience; and that where obedience did 
not impose the sacrifice, he would have no difficulty 
in preferring condescension and hospitality to fast- 
ing. The lives of the Saints furnish frequent 
examples of this. Above all, Scripture assures us, 
that by hospitality some have merited to receive 
Angels; from which declaration St. Paul takes occa- 
sion to exhort the faithful not to forget liberality and 
hospitality, as sacrifices well pleasing to God.* 

*Heb xiii. 2, 16. 

Upon Fasting 213 

‘* Remember,” he said, ‘“‘ that we must not be so 
deeply attached to our religious exercises, however 
pious, as not to be ready sometimes to give them up. 
For, if we cling to them too tightly, under the pre- 
text of fidelity and steadfastness, a subtle self-love 
will glide in among them, making us forget the end 
in the means, and then, instead of pressing on, nor 
resting till we rest in God Himself, we shall stop 
short at the means which lead to Him. 

As regards the occurrence of which I have been 
telling you, one Friday’s fast, thus interrupted, 
would have concealed many others; and to conceal 
such virtues is no less a virtue than those which are 
so concealed. God is a hidden God, who loves to 
be served, prayed to, and adored in secret, as the 
Gospel testifies.* You know what happened to 
that unthinking king of Israel, who, for having dis- 
played his treasures to the ambassadors of a bar- 
barian prince, was deprived of them all, when that 
same heathen king descended upon him with a 
powerful army. 

The practice of the virtue of condescension or 
affability may often with profit be substituted for 
fasting. I except, however, the case of a vow, for 
in that we must be faithful even to death, and care 
nothing about what men may say, provided that 
God is served. They that please men have been 
confounded, because God hath despised them.’’+ 

He asked me one day if it was easy for me to fast. 
I answered that it was perfectly easy, as it was a rare 
thing for me to sit down to table with any appetite. 
“ Then,” he rejoined, ‘‘ do not fast at all.” On my 
expressing great astonishment at these words, and 

¥Matt. vi. 6. +Psalm lii. 6. 

214 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

venturing to remind our Blessed Father that it was 
a mortification, strongly recommended to us by God 

“ Yes,” he replied, ‘‘ but for those who have 
better appetites than you have. Do some other good 
work, and keep your body in subjection by some 
other mode of discipline.” He went on, however, 
to say that fasting was, indeed, the greatest of all 
corporal austerities, since it puts the axe to the root 
of the tree. The others only touch the bark lightly; 
they only scrape or prune it. Whereas when the 
body waxes fat it often kicks, and from this sort of 
fatness sin is likely to proceed. 

Those who are naturally sober, temperate, and 
self-restrained have a great advantage over others 
in the matter of study and spiritual things. They 
are like horses that have been well broken in, horses 
which have a strong bridle, holding them in to their 

He was no friend to immoderate fasting, and 
never encouraged it in his penitents, as we see in 
his ‘‘ Introduction to a Devout Life,” where he gives 
this reason against the practice: ‘‘ When the body 
is over-fed, the mind cannot support its weight; but 
when the body is weak and wasted, it cannot support 
the mind.’’ He liked the one and the other to be 
dealt with in a well-balanced manner, and said that 
God wished to be served with a reasonable 
service; adding that it was always easy to bring 
down and reduce the bodily forces, but that it was 
not so easy a matter to build them up again when 
thus brought low. It is easy to wound, but not to 
heal. The mind should treat the body as its child, 
correcting without crushing it; only when it revolts 

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must it be treated as a rebellious subject, according 
to the words of the Apostle: I chastise my body and 
bring it into subjection.” 


I was so young when called to the episcopate that 
I lived in a state of continual mistrust and uncer- 
tainty; doubtful about this, scrupulous about that; 
ignorance being the grandmother of scruples, as 
servile fear is their mother. 

At the time of which I am going to speak, the 
residences of our Blessed Father and myself were 
only eight leagues apart, and in all my perplexities 
and difficulties I had recourse to his judgment and 
counsel. I kept a little foot-boy in my service, 
almost entirely employed in running to and fro 
between Belley and Annecy, carrying my letters to 
him and bringing back his replies. These replies 
were to me absolute decrees; nay, I should rather 
say oracles, so manifestly did God speak by the 
mouth and pen of that holy man. 

On one occasion it happened that the captains of 
some troops—then stationed in garrison on the bor- 
ders of Savoy and France, on account of a misunder- 
standing which had arisen between the two coun- 
tries—came to me at the beginning of Lent to ask 
permission for their men to eat eggs and cheese dur- 
ing that season. This was a permission which I 
had never given except to the weak and sickly. I 
learned from the men themselves that they were 
exceedingly robust and hearty, and only weak and 
reduced as regarded théir purses, their pay being 
so small that it barely supplied them with food. 

™ (or. ik. 27. 

216 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

Nevertheless, I did not consider this poor pay a 
sufficient reason for granting a dispensation, espe- 
cially in a district where Lent is so strictly kept that 
the peasants are scandalized when told that on cer- 
tain days they may eat butter. 

In my difficulty I despatched a letter at once to 
our Blessed Father, whose reply was full of sweet- 
ness and kindness. He said that he honoured the 
faith and piety of the good centurions, who had pre- 
sented this request, which, indeed, deserved to be 
granted, seeing that it edified, not the Synagogue, 
but the Church. He added that I ought not only to 
grant it, but to extend it, and instead of eggs, to 
permit them to eat oxen, and instead of cheese, the 
cows of whose milk it is made. 

“ Truly,” he went on to say, ‘‘ you are a wise 
person to consult me as to what soldiers shall eat 
in Lent, as if the laws of war and necessity did not 
over-ride all others without exception! Is it nota 
great thing that these good men submit themselves 
to the Church, and so defer to her as to ask her 
permission and blessing? God grant that they may 
do nothing worse than eat eggs, cheese, or beef; if 
they were guilty of nothing more heinous than that, 
there would not be so many complaints against 



“It is quite frue,” said our Blessed Father, on 
one occasion, ‘‘that there are certain matters in 
which we are meant to use our own judgment, and 
in which, if we judge ourselves, we shall not be 
chastised by God. But there are others in which, 
with the eye of our soul, that is, with our judgment, 

The golden mean in dispensations 217 

it is as with the eye of the body, which sees all 
things excepting itself. We need a mirror. Now, 
this mirror, as regards interior things, is the person 
to whom we manifest our conscience, and who is its 
judge in the place of God.” 

He went on to say that in the matter of granting 
dispensations to his flock, he had told a certain Pre- 
late, who had consulted him on the subject, that 
the best rule to give to others, or to take for one- 
self in such questions, is to love one’s neighbour 
as oneself, and oneself as others, in God and for 
God. ‘‘If,’’ he continued, addressing the Prelate, 
“you now take more trouble about granting these 
necessary dispensations to others than in getting 
them for yourself, the time will come when you will 
be generous, easy, and indulgent towards others, 
and severe and rigorous towards yourself. Per- 
haps you imagine that this second line of conduct 
is better than the other. It is not, and you will 
find the repose and peace of your soul only in the 
golden mean, which is the one wholesome atmos- 
phere for the nourishing of virtue.” 


Our Blessed Father held in great esteem the 
Gospel maxim, Eat such things as are set before 
you.* He deemed it a much higher and stronger 
degree of mortification to accommodate the tastes 
and appetite to any food, whether pleasant or other- 
wise, which may be offered, than always to choose 
the most inferior and coarsest kinds. For it not 
seldom happens that the greatest delicacies—or 

“uc. xo 8. 

218 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

those at least which are esteemed to be such by 
epicures—are not to our taste, and therefore to par- 
take of them without showing the least sign of dis- 
like is by no means so small a matter as may be 
thought. It incommodes no one but the person 
who so mortifies himself, and it is a little act of self- 
restraint so secret, so securely hidden from others, 
that the rest of the company imagine something 
quite different from the real truth. 

He also considered that it was a species of in- 
civility when seated at a meal to ask for some dish 
which was at the other end of the table, instead of 
taking what was close at hand. He said that such 
practices were evidence of a mind too keen about 
viands, sauces, and condiments; too much absorbed 
in mere eating and drinking. If, he added, this 
careful picking out of dishes is not done from 
greediness or gluttony, but from a desire to choose 
the worst food, it smacks of affectation, which is 
as inseparable from ostentation as smoke from fire. 
The conduct of people who do this is not unlike that 
of guests who take the lowest seats at the table, in 
order that they may, with the greater éclat, be sum- 
moned to the higher places. The following inci- 
dent will show his own indifference. One day 
poached eggs were served to him, and when he had 
eaten them, he continued to dip his bread in the 
water in which they had been cooked, apparently 
without noticing what he was doing. The guests 
were all smiling. Upon discovering the cause of 
their amusement, he told them it was too bad of them 
to undeceive him, as he was taking the sauce with 
much relish, verifying the proverb that ‘‘ Hunger 
is the best sauce ” ! 

Upon the state of Perfection 219 


The degree of perfection to which our Blessed 
Father brought his Religious he makes manifest to 
us in one of his letters. 

“Do you know,” he says, ‘‘ what the cloister is? 
It is the school of exact correction, in which each in- 
dividual soul must learn the lesson of allowing itself 
to be so disciplined, planed, and polished that at 
length, being quite smooth and even, it may be fit 
to be joined, united, and absolutely assimilated with 
the Will of God. 

To wish to be corrected is an evident sign of per- 
fection, for the principal point of humility is realiz- 
ing our need of it. 

A convent is a hospital for the spiritually sick. 
The sick wish to be cured, and, therefore, they 
willingly submit to be lanced, probed, cut, caute- 
rized, and subjected to any and every pain and dis- 
comfort which medicine or surgery may suggest. 

In the early days of the Church, religious were 
called by a name which signifies healers. Oh! my 
daughter, be truly your own healer, and pay no 
heed to what self-love may whisper to the contrary. 
Say to yourself, since I do not wish to die spiri- 
tually, I will be healed, and in order to be 
healed I will submit to treatment and correction, and 
I will entreat the doctors to spare me nothing which 
may be required to effect my cüre.” 


Our Blessed Father, who did not like people to be 
too introspective and self-tormenting, said that they 

220 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

should, however, walk as it is written of the Macca- 
bees, Cauie et ordinate ;* that is, with circumspec- 
tion and order, or, to use’ a common expression, 
“bridle in hand.” And one of the best proofs of 
our advancement in virtue is, he said, a love of cor- 
rection and reproof; for it is a sign of a good diges- 
tion easily to assimilate tough and coarse food. In 
the same way it is a mark of spiritual health and 
inward vigour to be able to say with the Psalmist, 
The just man shall correct me in mercy and shall 
reprove me.t 

It is a great proof of our hating vice, and of the 
faults which we commit, proceeding rather from 
inadvertence and frailty, than from malice and 
deliberate intention, that we welcome the warnings 
which make us think on our ways, and turn back 
our feet (that is to say, our affections) into the 
testimonies of God, by which is meant the divine 

An old philosopher said that to want to get well 
is part of the sick man’s cure. The desire to keep 
well is a sign of health. He who loves correction 
necessarily desires the virtue contrary to the fault 
for which he is reproved, and therefore profits by 
the warnings given him to escape the vice from 
which his fault proceeded. 

A sick person who is really anxious to recover 
his health takes without hesitation the remedies 
prescribed by the physician, however sharp, bitter, 
and painful they may be. He who aims at perfec- 
tion, which is the full health, and true holiness of 
the soul, finds nothing difficult that helps him to 
arrive at that end. Justice and judgment, that is 

*1 Mach. vi. 4. ¢Psalm cxl. 5. 

Upon the Perfection, £e, 221 

to say correction, establish in him the seat of per- 
fect wisdom. In a word, better are the wounds of 
a friend (like those of a surgeon who probes only 
to heal) than the deceitful kisses of a flatterer, an 


Our Blessed Father was speaking to me one 
day on the subject of exterior perfection, and on 
the discontent expressed by certain Religions, who, 
in their particular order, had not found the strict- 
ness and severity of rule they desired. He said: 
“ These good people seem to me to be knocking 
their heads against a stone wall. Christian perfec- 
tion does not consist in eating fish, wearing serge, 
sleeping on straw, stripping oneself of one’s 
possessions, keeping strict vigils, and such like 
austerities. For, were this so, pagans would be the 
more perfect than christians, since many of them 
voluntarily sleep on the bare ground, do not eat a 
morsel of meat throughout the whole year, are 
ragged, naked, shivering, living for the most part 
only on bread and water, and on that bread of 
suffering, too, which is far harder and heavier than 
the blackest of crusts. If perfection consisted in 
exterior observances such as these, they would have 
to go back in perfection were they to enter even 
the most strictly reformed of our Religious Houses, 
for in none is a life led nearly so austere as theirs, 

The question then is in what does the essential 
perfection of a christian life consist? It must 
surely in the first place include the assiduous prac- 

*Prov. xxvii. 6. 

222 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

tice of charity, for exterior mortifications without 
charity are of no account. St. Paul, we know, 
reckons martyrdom itself as nothing, unless 
quickened by charity. 

I do not exactly know what standard of perfec- 
tion they who insist so much upon exterior morti- 
fication wish to set up. 

Surely the greater or lesser degree of charity is 
the true measure of sanctity and the measure also 
of the excellence of religious rule. Now, in what 
rule is charity, the queen of the virtues, more re- 
commended that in that of St. Augustine? which 
seems to be nothing but one long discourse on 

However, it is not a question of comparing one 
rule with another, it is rather of noticing which 
rule is as a matter of fact best observed. For even 
had other rules, in regard to the exterior perfect- 
ness of the life they prescribe, every advantage over 
that of St. Augustine, who does not know that it is 
safer to enter a community in which a rule of less 
excellence is exactly observed, rather than another 
where a higher kind of rule is preached but not 
kept? Of what use are laws if they are not ob- 
served ? 

The consequence, in my opinion, of the mistake 
made by those who put over-much stress on esteem 
of mortification, is, that even Religious get accus- 
tomed to make use in their judgments of those 
lying balances of which the Psalmist speaks,* and 
that the simple-minded are forced to trust to the 
guidance of blind leaders. Hence it has come to 
pass that true and essential perfection is not what 

*Psalm lxi. Io. 

Upon Frugality 223 

the majority of people think it to be, nor is it 
reached by the road along which the many travel. 
May God have pity on us, and bless us with the 
light of His countenance, so that we may know His 
way upon the earth, and may declare His salvation 
to all nations, and may He turn aside from us in 
this our day, that which He once threatened to 
those who thought themselves wise: Let them 
alone, they are blind leaders of the blind.’’* 


The following notable example of frugality and 
economy was related to me by our Blessed Father 

Monseigneur Vespasian Grimaldi, who was 
Piedmontese by birth, made a tolerably large 
fortune in France as an ecclesiastic, during the 
regency of Catherine de Medicis. He was raised 
to the dignity of Archbishop of Vienne in 
Dauphiné, and held several other benefices which 
brought him in a large revenue. Having amassed 
all these riches at court, his desire was to live there 
in great pomp and splendour, but whether it was 
that God did not bless his designs, or that he was 
too much addicted to extravagance and display, 
certain it is that he was always in difficulties, not 
only about money, but even about his health. 

Weary at last of dragging on a life so troubled 
and so wretched, he resolved to quit the court, and 
to retire into a peaceful solitude. He had often in 
past days remarked the extraordinary beauty of the 
banks of Lake Leman, where nature seems to 
scatter her richest gifts with lavish hand, and there 

*Matt. xv. 14. 

224 The Spirit of St Francis De Sales 

he resolved to fix his abode in a district subject to 
his own sovereign, the Duke of Savoy, and settling 
down in that quiet spot to spend the remainder of 
his days in peace. He selected for this purpose 
the little village and market town of Evian, so 
called because of the abundance and clearness of 
its lovely streams and fountains. The little town 
is situated on the very margin of the lake, and 
backed by an outlying stretch of country is as 
charming to the eye as it is rich and fertile. 

There, having given up his archbishopric and 
all his benefices, reserving only to himself a pen- 
sion of two thousand crowns, he established a 
retreat into which he was accompanied by only 
three or four servants. 

He was at this time sixty-five years old, but 
weighed down by physical infirmities much more 
than by the burden of his years. He had chosen 
this particular spot purposely because there was no 
approach to it from the high road, and there was 
little fear of visits from that great world of which 
he was now so weary, in the crush and tumult of 
which he had spent so large a portion of his life in 
consequence of his position at court. 

Another reason for his choosing Evian was that 
the little township being in the diocese of Geneva, 
which is included in the province of Vienne in 
Dauphiné, in settling there he was not leaving his 
own province. 

Living then in this calm retreat, free from all 
bustle and all burdens of office, with no show and 
state to keep up, having nothing to attend to but 
the sanctification of his soul and the restoration of 
his bodily health, a marvellous change was soon 

Upon Frugality 225 

observed in him. Inward peace gave back to him 
health so vigorous and settled that those who had 
known him in the days of his infirmity declared 
him to be absolutely rejuvenated, and truly he did 
feel in his soul a renewal of strength like that of 
the eagle. This he attributed to exercises of the 
contemplative which he now devoted himself 
with fervour. 

We see thus how true is the divine oracle which 
tells us that to those who seek first the Kingdom of 
God and His justice all temporal things necessary 
shall be given,* for God prospered this good Pre- 
late in even his worldly affairs. 

The small sum of money which he had reserved 
for himself, and which he spent in the most frugal 
and judicious manner possible, so increased that 
when he died at the age of a hundred and two ora 
hundred and three years, he left behind him more 
than 6,000 crowns. 

By his will he ordered the whole to be distributed 
in benefactions and alms throughout the neigh- 
bourhood, and in fact it relieved every necessitous 
person to be found round about. 

it was this very Mgr. Vespasian Grimaldi who, 
assisted by the Bishops of Saint-Paul-Trois- 
Chateaux, and of Damascus, conferred episcopal 
consecration upon Blessed Francis in the Church 
of Thorens, in the diocese of Geneva, on the feast 
of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady, 
December 8th, 1602. 

From this notable example we may easily gather. 

1. That for Prelates the atmosphere of Courts 
is not to be recommended. 

*Matt. vi. 33. 

226 The Spirito St. Francis De Sales 

2. That it is favourable neither to the growth 
of holiness nor the maintenance of physical health. 

3. That great fortunes entail great slavery and 
great anxieties. 

4. A peaceful, tranquil, and hidden life, even 
from the point of view of common sense and of the 
dictates of nature, is the happiest. 

5. That much more is this so when looked at in 
the light of grace and of the soul’s welfare. 

6. That the old saying is quite true that there is 
no surer way to increase one’s income than that of 
frugality and judicious economy. 

7. That one never has money enough to meet all 
the claims of worldly show and vain ostentation. 

8. That he who lives in the style the world ex- 
pects of him is never rich, while he who regulates 
his expenditure simply by his natural needs is never 

g. That almsdeeds is an investment which multi- 
plies itself a hundredfold even in this present life 
and ensures the fruit of a blessed eternity in the 
next, provided only they have been given in the 
love, and for the love of God. 


Our Blessed Father had the highest possible 
esteem for the virtue of simplicity. Indeed, my 
sisters, you know what a prominent place he gives 
to it in his letters, his Spiritual Conferences, and 
elsewhere. Whenever he met with an example of 
it he rejoiced and openly expressed his delight. I 
will here give you one instance which he told me, 
as it were exulting over it. 

Blessed Francis’ esteem of the virtue, £c. 227 

After having preached the Advent and Lent at 
Grenoble, he paid a visit to La Grande Chartreuse, 
that centre of wonderful devotion and austerity, the 
surroundings of which are so wild, solitary, and 
almost terrible in their ruggedness, that St. Ber- 
nard called it locus horroris et vaste solitudinis. 

At the time of his visit, the Prior General of the 
whole Order was Dom Bruno d’Affringues, a 
native of St. Omer, a man of profound learning 
and of still more profound humility and simplicity. 
I knew him well, and can bear witness to the 
beauty of his character, which in its extreme 
sweetness and simplicity had something in it not 
of this earth. 

He received Blessed Francis on his arrival with 
his usual delightful courtesy and sincerity. After 
having conducted him to a guest chamber suited to 
his rank, and having talked with him on many 
lofty and sublime subjects, he suddenly remem- 
bered that it was some feast day of the Order. He 
therefore took leave of the Bishop, saying that he 
would gladly have stayed with him much longer, 
but that he knew his honoured guest would prefer 
obedience to everything else, and that he must re- 
tire to his cell to prepare for Matins, it being the 
feast of one of their great Saints. 

Our Saint approved highly of this exact obser- 
vance of rule, and they separated with mutual 
expressions of respect and regard. 

On his way to his cell, however, the Prior was 
met by the Procurator of the Monastery, who 
asked him where he was going and where he had 
left his Lordship, the Bishop of Geneva. ‘‘I have 
left him,” the Prior answered, ‘‘in his own cham- 

228 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

ber, and I took leave of him that I might go to our 
cell and be ready to say Matins to-night in choir 
because of to-morrow s feast.” ‘‘ Truly, Reverend 
Father,” said the Procurator, ‘‘ you are well up in 
the ceremonies of the world indeed! Why, it is 
only a feast of our own Order! Do we, out in this 
desert, have every day for our guests Prelates of 
such distinction? Do you not know that God takes 
pleasure when for a sacrifice to Him we offer hos- 
pitality and kindliness? You will always have 
leisure to sing the praises of God; you will have 
plenty of other opportunities for saying Matins; 
but who can entertain such a Prelate better than 
you? What a disgrace to the house that you 
should leave him thus alone!” ‘‘ My son,” re- 
plied the Reverend Father, ‘‘I see that you are 
quite right and that I have certainly done wrong.”’ 
So saying he at once retraced his steps to the Bishop 
of Geneva’s apartment, and finding him there said 
humbly: *‘ My Lord, on leaving you I met one of 
our brethren who told me that I had been guilty 
of discourtesy in leaving you thus all alone; that 
I should have an opportunity at another time of 
making up for my absence from Matins, but that 
we do not every day have a Bishop of Geneva 
under our roof. I see that he is in the right 
and I have come back at once to ask your 
pardon, and to beg you to excuse my apparent 
rudeness, for I assure you truthfully that it was 
done in ignorance.” 

Blessed Francis was enraptured with this 
straightforwardness, candour, and simplicity, and 
told me that he was more delighted with it than 
if he had seen the good Prior work a miracle. 

Blessed Francis’ love of exactitude 229 


This same Dom Bruno was remarkable for his 
exactitude and punctuality, virtues which our 
Blessed Father always both admired and praised. 
He was so exact in the observance of the smallest 
monastic detail that no novice could have surpassed 
him in carefulness. At the same time he never 
allowed himself to be carried away by indiscreet 
fervour, beyond the line laid down in his rule, 
knowing how much harm would be done to his in- 
feriors by his not preserving a calm and even tenor 
of life, making himself all things to men, that he 
might win them and keep them for Jesus Christ. 

He would never allow the smallest austerities to 
be practised beyond those prescribed by the Con- 
Stitutions of the Order. Though rigorous towards 
himself he was marvellously indulgent towards 
those whom he governed in the monastery. For 
himself he had the heart of a judge, for them that 
of a mother. 

Our holy Bishop, drawing a comparison between 
him and his predecessor, who was addicted to such 
excessive austerities that it seemed as if he had 
either no body at all, or one of iron, said: ‘' The 
late Prior was like those unskilful physicians who 
by their treatment fill up our cemeteries: 
for many who desired to imitate his mortified life, 
and through a zeal without knowledge, tried to do 
what was beyond their strength, ended by falling 
into the pit. On the other hand, the actual Prior 
of the Grand Chartreuse, by his gentleness and 
moderation, maintains among his monks, peace 
and humility of soul, together with health of body, 

230 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

making them preserve their strength for God, that 
is to say, so as to serve Him longer and with 
greater earnestness in those exercises which tend to 
His glory. In doing this he follows the example 
of the Patriarch Jacob, who, on his return from 
Mesopotamia, could have reached his father’s 
house much sooner had he accepted the offer of 
camels made by his brother Esau, when he came to 
meet him. But Jacob preferred to accommodate 
his pace to that of his little ones, of his children, 
and even of the lambs of his flock, rather than to 
press on at the risk of throwing his household and 
followers into disorder. This example was a 
favourite one with our Blessed Father, and I am 
reminded of another of the same kind, which he 
valued almost as much. ‘‘ Have you read,” he 
once said to me, ‘‘ the life of Blessed Aloysius Gon- 
zaga of the Society of Jesus? If you have, perhaps 
you have remarked what it was that made that 
young prince so quickly become holy, and almost 
perfect. It was his extreme exactitude and punc- 
tuality, and his faithful observance of the Constitu- 
tions of his Order. This was such that he refused 
to put one foot before the other, so to speak, or 
draw back a single step in order to gratify himself. 
This, not of course in regard to things commanded, 
or forbidden, for the law of God leaves us in no 
doubt about such, but in those indifferent matters 
which, being neither commanded nor forbidden, 
often make correct discernment difficult.” 
There are some who imagine that this way of dis- 
cerning the will of God is impracticable for persons 
in the world, and that it is only out of the world, 
as they call the cloistered life, that one can have 

Blessed Francis love of exactitude 231 

recourse to it. Now, although we do not deny 
that in the well-regulated and holy life of a con- 
vent by means of obedience, and through the 
medium of superiors, the knowledge of God’s will 
in things indifferent can be more perfectly ascer- 
tained, and more readily acted upon, than in any 
other state of life, still we venture to maintain that 
even in the world it is easier to ascertain God’s will, 
even in things indifferent, than might at first sight 

It was one of Blessed Francis’ common maxims 
that great fidelity towards God may be practised 
even in the most indifferent actions, and he con- 
sidered that to be a lower degree of fidelity which is 
only available for great and striking occasions. He 
who is careful with farthings, how much more so 
will he be with crowns? 

Not that he loved scrupulous minds, those, 
namely, which are troubled and anxious about 
every trifle. No, indeed, but he desired that God 
should be loved by all with a vigilant and attentive 
love, exact, punctual, and faithful in the smallest 
matters, pictured to us by the rod the Prophet used 
when watching the boiling caldron, to remove all 
the scum as it rose to the surface.* 

And you may be sure that what he taught by 
word, he himself was the first to practise. He was 
the most punctual man I ever knew, the most exact, 
though without fussiness or worry. He was not 
only most accurate in all details of the service of 
the altar and of the choir, but, even when reciting 
his office in private, he never failed to observe all 
minutiz of ceremonial in every way, bowing his 

myer. E Tr, 13. 

232 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

head, genuflecting, etc., as if he were engaged in 
a solemn public function. In his intercourse with 
the world he was just as exact; he omitted no de- 
tail required by courtesy, he spared no pains to 
avoid giving inconvenience or annoyance to any- 
one. People who were old fashioned in their punc- 
tilious civilities, and tedious and lengthy in their 
ceremonious discourse, he treated with the most 
sweet and gracious forbearance, letting them say 
all they had to say, before he replied, and then 
answering as his duty and the laws of politeness 

All his actions were regular as clockwork, and 
the holy presence of God was the loadstar of his 
soul. One day I was complaining to him of the 
too great deference which he paid me. ‘* And for 
how much then do you,” he answered, ‘* account 
Jesus Christ, whom I honour in your person?” 
‘“ Oh!” I replied, “if you take that ground, you 
ought to speak to me on your knees!” 

Once two persons happened to be playing a 
game of skill when Blessed Francis was in the 
room. One was cheating the other. Our holy 
Prelate, indignant at this, remonstrated at once. 
‘*Oh,’’ was the careless reply, ‘“‘ we are only 
playing for farthings.’ And ‘‘ supposing you 
were playing for guineas,’’ returned Francis, 
“how would it be then? He who despises small 
faults will fall into great ones, but he who is faith- 
ful and honest in small matters will also be honest 
in great ones. He who fears to steal a pin will 
certainly not take a guinea. In fine, he who is 
faithful over a little shall be set over much.” 

I should like while I am on this subject to add 

A test of Religious Vocation 233 

a short saying which was often on the lips of this 
Blessed Father. ‘‘ Fidelity towards God consists in 
abstaining from even the slighest faults, for great 
ones are so repulsive in themselves that often 
enough nature deters us from committing them.” 


Here I will relate a pleasant little incident which 
befell Dom Bruno, of whom I have spoken above. 
Our Blessed Father often quoted it as an example 
for others. 

The Germans, particularly those on the banks of 
the Rhine, have a special devotion to St. Bruno, 
who was a native of Cologne, in which city he is 
highly honoured. 

A young man, a native of the same place, had a 
most ardent desire to enter the Carthusian Order, 
but his parents, influential people of the city, pre- 
vented his being received into the Chartreuse of 
Cologne, or into any other Carthusian monastery 
in the neighbourhood. 

The youth, greatly distressed at this repulse, 
left the city in haste, and took refuge among the 
holy mountains where St. Bruno and his com- 
panions made their first retreat. Presenting him- 
self at the Grande Chartreuse he asked to see the 
Rev. Fr. Prior, and throwing himself at his feet, 
entreated that he might be clothed with the habit 
of the Order, concealing nothing from him, neither 
his birth, nor his place of residence, nor the cir- 
cumstances of his vocation, etc. The Prior, ob- 
serving that he was fragile in appearance and of 
an apparently delicate constitution, remonstrated, 
pointing out to him how great were the austerities 

234 The Spirit St. Francis De Sales 

of the Order, and reminding him of the bleakness 
of the hills amidst which the monastery was 
situated, and of the perpetual winter which reigns 
there. The young man replied insisting that he 
knew all this, and had counted the cost, but that 
God would be his strength, and enable him by His 
grace to overcome all obstacles. ‘‘ Even though,” 
said he, “I should walk in the shadow of death I 
shall fear no evil provided that God be with me.” 
Then the Prior took a more serious tone. Deter- 
mined to test to the utmost the courage and resolu- 
tion of the postulant, he asked him sharply if he 
knew all that was required of those who aspire to 
enter the Carthusian Order. ‘‘ Are you aware,” 
he said, ‘“‘ that in the first place we require him to 
work at least one miracle? Can you do that?” 
“I cannot,” replied the young man, ‘‘ but the 
power of God within me can. I trust myself 
entirely to His goodness. I am certain that having 
called me to serve Him in this vocation, and im- 
planted in me a thorough disgust for the things of 
the world, He will not permit me to look back, nor 
to return to that corrupt society which, with all my 
heart and soul, I have renounced. Ask of me 
whatever sign you will, I am convinced that God 
will work a miracle, even through me, in testimony 
of this truth.” 

As he spoke the blood mounted to his forehead, 
his eyes shone like stars, his whole visage seemed 
on fire with enthusiasm. 

Dom Bruno, astonished at the vehemence of his 
words, opened his arms, and clasping him to his 
heart received him at once among his children. 
Then turning to those who stood around him, 

A test of Religious Vocation 235 

‘* My brothers,” he said, ‘‘ his is an undeniable 
vocation. May God of His clemency often send 
such labourers into the harvest of the Chartreuse.”’ 
And to the young postulant, ‘‘ Have confidence, 
my son, God will help you, and will love you, and 
you will love Him, and will serve Him among us. 
This is the miracle we expect you to work.” 

You will ask me, perhaps, what use our Blessed 
Father could make of thisexample. I will tell you. 
When he was admitting any young girl into your 
congregation, my sisters, he invariably referred to 
it. He used to speak to her only of Calvary, of the 
nails, the thorns, the crosses, of inward mortifica- 
tion, of surrender of will, and crucifixion of private 
judgment, of dying wholly to self, in order to live 
only with God, in God, and for God: in fine, of 
living no longer according to natural inclinations 
and feelings, but absolutely according to the spirit 
of faith, and of your congregation. 

Did anyone object that your Order was not so 
rigorous, or severe, as he made it out to be; but 
that, on the contrary, the life led by its members 
was easy, without many outward austerities, as was 
proved by the fact that even the infirm and sickly 
were admitted into it, and attained to the same sanc- 
tity as the rest, he replied: ‘‘ Believe me, that if the 
body is there preserved as if it were a vessel of 
election, the spirit is there tested and tried in all 
possible ways, since the spirit that fails to stand 
every possible trial is no stone fit for the building 
up of this congregation.” 

He went on to quote from the life of St. Bernard. 
Against that holy man it was once urged that the 
austerities and bodily macerations practised in his 

236 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

Order frightened away young men, and deterred 
them from entering it. ‘‘ Many,” said the Saint, 
‘““ see our crosses, but see not how well we are able 
to carry them. It happens to our crosses, as it does 
to those which are painted on the walls of a church 
when the Bishop in consecrating it makes a second 
cross upon them with holy oil. The people see the 
cross made by the painter, but they do not see that 
with which the Bishop has covered it. Our crosses, 
so plainly visible, are softened by very many 
inward consolations, which are concealed from the 
eyes of worldlings because they understand not the 
spiritual things of God, nor see how we can find 
peace in this bitterness which so repels those whose 
only thought is of themselves, and of their own 
pleasures. In very truth,’’ our Blessed Father con- 
tinued, ‘‘ the worldling may notice in the rosebed 
of religion only the loveliness of the flowers, and 
the sweetness of their perfume, but these conceal 
many athorn. The crosses of community life are 
hidden because the sisters of this congregation 
have by interior mortification to make up for what 
is lacking in external austerities. 

This law of your Institute has been established 
out of consideration for the weak and infirm, who 
may be admitted among you, and to whose service 
the stronger members have to devote themselves. 
This is the reason why all who purpose to enter 
the Order have to resolve to make war to the death 
against their private judgment, and still more 
against their self-will and self-love. This is why 
all ought to mortify all their passions and affec- 
tions, and absolutely to bend their understanding 
under the yoke of obedience, to live, in short, no 

Upon following the common life 237 

longer according to the old man, but entirely 
according to the new man, in holiness and in jus- 
tice. So to live as to bear a continual cross even 
until death, and dying upon it, with the Son of 
God, to say, With Christ I am nailed to the Cross, 
and I live, now not I, but Christ liveth in me.’’* 


He always praised common life very highly. His 
exalted opinion of its merits made him refuse to 
allow the Sisters of the Visitation to practise 
extraordinary austerities in respect to dress or food. 
For these matters he prescribed rules such as can 
easily be observed by anyone who wishes to lead 
a christian life in the world. His spiritual daugh- 
ters, following this direction, imitate the example 
of Jesus Christ, of His Blessed Mother, and of the 
disciples of our Lord, who led no other kind of life. 
For the rest, they have at all times to submit them- 
selves to the discretion and judgment of their 
superiors, whose duty it is to decide for them on 
the expediency of extraordinary mortifications after 
hearing the circumstances of the case of any indi- 
vidual sister. 

Our Saint himself often, indeed, practised bodily 
mortifications, but always with judgment and 
prudence, for he knew full well that the object of 
such austerities is the preservation of purity of soul, 
not the destruction of bodily health. 

In one word, he practically set the life of Jesus 
Christ before that of St. John the Baptist. 

*Gal. it, 19) 20. 

238 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 


Although our Blessed Father has given you the 
fullest possible instructions on this subject, in his 
seventeenth Conference, entitled, On voting in a 
Community, I see that you are not quite satisfied 
in the matter. 

I know very well that your dissatisfaction does not 
wise from any unworthy motive, but only from a 
conscientious desire to do your duty to God, and to 
the sisters whom you have ina way to judge. To 
relieve your minds of doubt, I am about to supple- 
ment the teaching of that Conference with a few 
thoughts suggested to me at various times by 
Blessed Francis himself, which I put before you 
in words of my own. 

In the first place, we must be careful never to 
confuse the terms vocation and avocation, for their 
meaning is very different. 

An avocation is the condition of life in which we 
serve God. 

A vocation is His call to that condition of life. 
When we call a servant to command him to do 
something, the calling him is one thing, his obey- 
ing and employing himself as directed quite 
another; and this, even if he do the work precisely 
as he is told, and no more. Now, there are two 
sorts of vocation. The first is the call to faith or 
grace; the second, the call to a particular avocation 
in life. 

To follow the first vocation, viz., to Faith, is 
necessary for salvation, since he who refuses to 
listen to this call and to obey its voice risks the loss 
of his immortal soul. A pagan or heretic called by 

Upon judging of Vocations 239 

God to embrace Christianity or to submit to the 
Catholic Church, and to the end neglecting this 
call, must needs be lost, for out of the true Church 
there is no salvation. Again, if a member of the 
true Church who is spiritually dead in mortal sin, 
refuse to listen to the call, or vocation, of prevent- 
ing grace which bids him return to God by confes- 
sion, or by contrition of heart, he is in a state of 

Not so, however, with the second kind of call or 
vocation. As this is only to some particular con- 
dition of life in the world or the cloister, although 
we must not neglect it, but must listen with respect 
to what it may please God to say to our heart, yet 
essentially it is not of vital importance to the 
welfare of our soul that we should follow such a 
call, since, at the most, it is but an inward coun- 
sel, which may be acted upon or not according to 
our choice. 

And now remember that the counsels given in 
Holy Scripture are not precepts.* Our Blessed 
Father has often said that it would be not only an 
error, but a heresy, to maintain that there is any 
kind of legitimate calling or avocation in which it 
is impossible to save one’s soul. On the contrary, 
in each, grace is offered, by means of which 
we may Safely walk before God in holiness and 
justice all the days of our life. 

To deny this would be to cut off from the hope of 
salvation, not thousands only, but millions of men 
and women, those, namely, who are engaged 
all their lives long in occupations which they have 
undertaken, not only without a vocation from God, 

*: Cor. vii. 

240 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

but sometimes even against their own inclination. 

This is the teaching of this Blessed Father in his 
Philothea, where he says, “‘It is an error, nay, a 
heresy, to wish to exclude the highest holiness of 
life from the soldier’s barrack, the mechanic’s work- 
shop, the courts of princes, or the household of 
married people.” 

He used to say that it is not sufficient merely to 
love our calling, but that our most earnest endea- 
vours as true and faithful christians should be to 
strive to attain perfection in that same calling. 

He remarked, too, that we do wrong to waste 
time in arguing as to what that perfection consists 
in. The glory of God should be the one aim of 
every devout soul. 

Only by the practice of virtue can that final end 
be reached, and no virtue unaccompanied by charity 
avails to attain to it. Therefore, charity is the bond 
of all perfection, nay, itself is all perfection. 

He attached much more importance to the spirit 
in which a vocation is followed out, than to the mere 
fact of its being embraced. 

‘And this because the salvation of our souls, 
which we shall owe to God’s grace, does not 
depend so much on the nature of our particular 
vocation or calling, but on our own persevering 
faithful submission to the will of God, which will 
of God is the salvation of us all. 

Now, as we can save our souls, so we can also 
lose them in any calling whatsoever. 

Would you desire a more unmistakable vocation 
than that of King Saul, or one more glorious than 
that of Judas? Yet both were lost. Where will 
you find one more troubled, and more interrupted 

Upon judging of Vocations 241 

by sin, than that of King David? Yet in spite of 
all that happened to him, how happy was its issue. 

The vocation of a certain young lady who 
resolved upon taking the veil, but only out of a 
sort of despair, and because irritated against her 
family, was nevertheless approved by our Blessed 
Father, who to justify his approval gave the follow- 
ing explanation. 

‘“ As regards the vocation of this young lady, 
I consider it good, mingled though it be in her 
mind with imperfections and desirable though it 
would have been that she should have come to God 
simply and solely for the sake of the happiness of 
being wholly His. Remember that those whom 
God calls to Himself are not all drawn by Him 
with the same kind, or degree, of motives. 

There are but few who give themselves absolutely 
to His service from the one only desire to be His, 
and to serve Him alone. 

Among the women whose conversion the Gospel 
has made famous, Magdalen alone came through 
love, and with love. 

The adulteress came through public shame, the 
woman of Samaria from private and individual self- 
reproach, the woman of Canaan in order to be 
healed of bodily infirmity. Again, among the 
saints, St. Paul, the first hermit, at the age of 
fifteen, took refuge in his cave to escape persecu- 
tion. St. Ignatius Loyola came through distress 
and suffering, and so on with hundreds of others. 
We must not expect all to begin by being perfect. 
It matters little how we commence, provided only 
that we are firmly resolved to go on well, and to 
end well. Certainly Leah intruded with scant 


242 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

courtesy into Rachel’s promised place, as the wife 
of Jacob, yet she afterwards conducted herself so 
irreproachably, and behaved with such modesty 
and sweetness, that to her rather than to Rachel 
was vouchsafed the blessing of being an ancestress 
of our Lord. 

Those who were compelled to come into the 
marriage feast in the Gospel, ate, and drank of the 
best, nor, had they been the guests for whom the 
banquet was prepared, could they have fared better. 
If, then, we would have a pledge of their good 
living and perseverance, we must look at the good 
dispostions of those who enter Religion rather than 
at the motives which impel them: for there are 
many souls who would not have entered the con- 
vent at all if the world had smiled upon them, and 
whom we nevertheless may find to be resolute in 
trampling under their feet the vanities of that same 


‘“ I know not,” said our Blessed Father, on one 
occasion, ‘f what this poor virtue of prudence has 
done to me that I find it so difficult to love it: if 
I do so at all, it is only because I have no choice 
in the matter, seeing that it is the very salt of life, 
and a light to show us the way out of its diff- 

On the other hand, the beauty of simplicity 
charms me. I would rather possess the harmless- 
ness of one dove than the wisdom of a hundred 
serpents. I know that a combination of wisdom 
and simplicity is useful, and that the Gospel 
recommends it to us;* but I am of opinion that 

*Matt. x. 16. 

Upon Prudence and Simplicity 243 

in this matter it should be as it is with certain 
medicines, in which a minute dose of poison is 
mixed with many wholesome drugs. If the doses 
of serpent and dove were equal, I would not trust 
the medicine; the serpent can kill the dove, the 
dove cannot kill the serpent. Besides, there is a 
sort of prudence that is human and worldly which 
Scripture calls carnal wisdom,* as it is only used 
for wrong-doing, and is so dangerous and so 
subtle that those who possess it are unconscious 
of their own danger. They deceive others, yet 
are the first to be themselves deceived. 

I am told that in an age so crafty as our own 
prudence is necessary, if only to prevent our being 
wronged. I say nothing against this dictum, but 
I do believe that more in harmony with the mind 
of the Gospel is that which teaches us that it is 
great wisdom in the sight of God to suffer men 
to devour us, and to take away our goods,t bear- 
ing the loss of them joyfully, knowing that a 
better and a more secure substance awaits us. In 
a word, a good christian should always choose 
rather to be the anvil than the hammer, the robbed 
than the robber, the victim than the murderer, the 
martyr than the tyrant. Let the world rage, let 
the prudence of so-called philosophy stand aghast, 
let the flesh despair; it is better to be good and 
simple than clever and wicked.” 


Some of the friends of our Saint, actuated by 
this spirit of worldly prudence, having seen the 
flattering reception given by the public to his 

“mom. viii. 6. f2 Cor. xi. 20. 

244 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

Philothea, which had at once been translated into 
various languages, advised him not to write any 
more books, as it was impossible that any other 
work from his pen should meet with equal success. 

These remarks were unwelcome to our Blessed 
Father, who afterwards said to me: ‘‘ These good 
people no doubt love me, and their love makes 
them speak as they do, out of the abundance of 
their hearts; but if they will only be so good as to 
turn their eyes for a moment from me, vile and 
wretched as I am, and fix them upon God, they 
will soon change their note; for if it has pleased 
Him to give His blessing to that first little book 
of mine, why should He deny it to my next? 
And if from little Philothea He made His glory 
to shine forth, as He brought forth the light from 
darkness,* and the sacred fire from the clayT, is 
His arm thereby shortened, or His power dimin- 
ished? Can He not -make living and thirst- 
quenching water flow forth from the jaw-bone of 
an ass? But these good people do not dwell upon 
such considerations; they think solely of my per- 
sonal glory, as if we ought to desire credit for 
ourselves, and not rather ascribe all to God, who 
works in us whatever good seems to emanate from 

Now, according to the spirit of the Gospel, so 
far from its being right to depend upon the ap- 
plause of the world, St. Paul declares that if we 
please men, we are not the servants of God,{ the 
friendship of the world being enmity with God. 
If then that little book has brought to me some vain 
and unmerited praise, it would be well worth my 

*Gen. i. 2, 3,- +2/Maeb. i 19, 22, Mal. 1. 10, 

Upon Mental Prayer 245 

while to build upon its foundation some inferior 
work, so as to beat down the smoke of this incense, 
and earn that contempt from men which makes us 
so much the more pleasing to God, because. we are 
thereby more and more crucified to the world.” 


I once asked our Blessed Father if it was not 
better to take one single point for mental prayer, 
and to draw from this point one single affection and 
resolution, as I thought that by taking three points 
and deducing from them very many affections and 
resolutions great confusion and perplexity of mind 
were occasioned. He replied that unity and sim- 
plicity in all things, but especially in spiritual 
exercises, must always be preferred to multiplicity 
and complexity, but that to beginners, and to those 
little skilled in this exercise, several points should 
be proposed so as fully to occupy their minds. 

I enquired whether, supposing that a single 
point were taken, it would not be better to dwell 
likewise upon only one affection and resolution 
rather than upon several. He answered that when 
Spring is richest in flowers, bees make the least 
honey, because they are so delighted to flutter from 
flower to flower that they do not give themselves 
time to extract the essence and spirit of which they 
form their combs. Drones make a great deal of 
noise and produce a very small result. And to the 
question whether it was not better often to repeat 
and dwell upon the same affection and resolution, 
rather than to develop and expand it by thinking 
it out, he replied that we ought to imitate painters 

246 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

and sculptors, who work by repeating again and 
again the strokes of their brush and chisel, and that 
in order to make a deep impression on the heart it 
is often necessary to go over the same thing many 

He added that as those sink, who in swimming 
move their legs and arms too rapidly, it being 
necessary to stretch them leisurely and easily, so 
also those who are too eager in mental prayer, faint 
away in their thoughts, their distracted meditations 
causing them only pain and dissatisfaction. 

I am asked to explain that saying attributed by 
our Blessed Father to the great St. Anthony, that 
he who prays ought to have his mind so fixed 
upon God, as even to forget that he is praying. 
Here is the explanation in our Saint’s own words. 
He says in one of his Conferences: ‘‘ The soul 
must be kept steadfastly in this path (that, namely, 
of love and confidence in God) without allowing it 
to waste its powers in continually trying to ascer- 
tain what precisely it is doing and whether its work 
is satisfactory. Alas! our satisfactions and con- 
solations do not always satisfy God: they only 
feed that miserable love and care of ourselves which 
has to do neither with God nor with the thought 
of God. Certainly, children whom our Lord has 
set before us as models of the perfection to be aimed 
at by us are, generally speaking, especially in 
the presence of their parents, quite untroubled 
about what is to happen. They cling to them 
without a thought of providing for themselves. 
The pleasures their parents procure them they 
accept in good faith and enjoy in simplicity, with- 
out any curiosity whatever as to their causes or 

Upon Mental Prayer 247 

effects. The love they feel for their parents and their 
reliance upon them is all they need. Those whose 
one desire is to please the Divine Lover have 
neither inclination nor leisure to turn back upon 
themselves, for their minds tend continually in the 
direction whither love carries them.’’* 

There isa saying of Tauler’s, that holy man who 
wrote a book on mystic theology, which our Blessed 
Francis held in high esteem, and was never weary 
of inculcating upon those of his disciples who were 
anxious to lead a devout life, or who, having 
already entered upon it, needed encouragement to 
make progress in it. Tauler was asked where he, 
who was so great a contemplative, and who held 
such close and familiar communication with God, 
had found God. He answered, ‘ Where I found 
myself.” On being further asked where he had 
found himself, he said, ‘*‘ Where I forgot myself in 

He went on to say, We must lose ourselves in 
order to find ourselves in God, as it is written: 
He that loveth his life shall lose it, and he that 
hateth his life in this world keepeth tt unto life 
eternal.t No man can serve two masters, God and 
mammon.{ To follow one you must of necessity 
quit the other. There is no fellowship between light 
and darkness or between Christ and Belial.§ 

The two lovers who built, one the City of Jeru- 
salem, the other the City of Babylon, of whom St. 
Augustine speaks, have nothing in common. It is 
the struggle of Esau and Jacob over again.” 

*Conf. xii. tJobn xii. 25. {[St. Matt. 24. 
§2 Cor. Vi pipis. 

248 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 


As the Saints own ordinary and favourite 
spiritual exercise was the practice of the presence 
of God, so he advised those whom he directed in 
the ways of holiness to devote themselves most ear- 
nestly to recollection, and to the use of frequent 
aspirations or ejaculatory prayers. 

On one occasion I asked him whether there 
would be more spiritual loss in omitting the exer- 
cise of mental prayer or in omitting that of recol- 
lection and aspirations. He answered that the 
omission of mental prayer might be repaired dur- 
ing the day or night by frequent withdrawal of t*-e 
mind into God and by aspirations to Him, but that 
mental prayer unaccompanied by aspirations was, 
in his estimation, like a bird with clipped wings. 
He went on to say that: “by recollection we retire 
into God, and draw God into ourselves, as it is 
written: I opened my mouth, and panted, because 
I longed for Thy commandments,* by which is 
meant the mouth of the heart to which God always 
graciously inclines His ear. In the Canticle the 
bride says that her Beloved led her into His cellar 
of wine, he set în order charity in me.t Or, as 
another version has it, He enrolled me under the 
banner of His love. Just as wine is stored up in 
vaults or cellars, and as soldiers gather under their 
standards or banners; so all the faculties-of our 
soul gather together around the goodness and love 
of God by short spiritual retreats, made from time 
to time throughout the day. But when are they 

*Psalm cxviii. 131. ‘tCant. ii 4. 

Upon Aspirations. 249 

made, and in what place? At any moment, and in 
any place, and there is no meal, or company, or 
employment, or occupation of any sort which can 
hinder them, just as they on their part neither hin- 
der nor interfere with anything that has to be done. 
On the contrary, this is a salt which seasons every 
kind of food, or rather a sugar which never spoils 
any sauce. It consists only in inward glances 
from ourselves and from God, from ourselves into 
God, and from God into ourselves, without pic- 
tures or speech, or any outward aid; and the 
simpler this recollection is the better it is. As re- 
gards aspirations, they also are short but swift 
dartings of the soul into God, and can be made by 
a simple mental glance cast towards Him. Cast 
thy care, or thoughts, upon the Lord,* says David, 
The more vigorously an arrow is shot from the bow 
the more swift is its flight. The more vehement 
and loving is an aspiration, the more truly is it a 
spiritual lightning-flash. These transports or aspi- 
rations, of which we have so many formulas, are 
the better the shorter they are. One of St. Bruno 
seems to me excellent on account of its brevity: 
O goodness of God; that also of St. Francis, 
My God and my all! and that of St. Augustine, 
Oh! to love, to go forward, to die to self, to reach 
God! ” 

Our Blessed Father treats excellently of these two 
exercises in his Philothea, and recommends them 
strongly, saying that they hold to one another, as 
did Jacob and Esau at their birth, and follow one 
another, as do respiration and aspiration. And just 
as in respiration we draw the fresh outer air into 

*Psalm liv. 23. 

250 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

our lungs, and by aspiration drive out that into 
which the heat of our bodies has entered, so by the 
breath of recollection we draw God into ourselves, 
or retire into God, and by aspirations we cast our- 
selves into the arms of His goodness. 

Happy the soul that often thus breathes, and thus 
aspires, for she abides in God and God in her. 


The two exercises which he especially recom- 
mended to his penitents were interior recollection 
and ejaculatory aspirations and prayers. By them, 
he said, the defects of all other spiritual exercises 
might be remedied, and without them those others 
were sSaltless, that is, without savour. He called 
interior recollection the collecting or gathering up 
of all the powers of the soul into the heart, there to 
hołd communion with God, alone with Him, heart 
to heart. 

This Blessed Francis could do in all places and 
at all hours without being hindered by any com- 
pany or occupations. This recollection of God and 
of ourselves was the favourite exercise of the great 
St. Augustine, who so often exclaimed: ‘ Lord, 
let me know Thee, and know myself !’’ and of the 
great St. Francis, who cried out: ‘‘ Who art Thou, 
my God and my Lord? and who am I, poor dust 
and a worm of the earth?’’ This frequent looking 
up to God and then down upon ourselves keeps us 
wonderfully to our duties, and either prevents us 
from falling, or helps us to raise ourselves quickly 
from our falls, as the Psalmist says: I set the Lord 

Upon doing and enduring 251 

always in my sight: for He is at my right hand, 
that I be not moved.* 

Thou hast held me by my right hand; and by 
Thy will thou hast conducted me, and with Thy 
glory Thou hast received me.t He teaches us 
how to practise this exercise in his Philothea, 
where, dealing with the subject of aspirations or 
ejaculatory prayers, he says: ‘“‘ In this exercise of 
Spiritual retreat and ejaculatory prayers lies the 
great work of devotion. We may make up for 
the deficiency of all other prayers, but failure in 
this can scarcely ever be repaired. Without it we 
cannot well lead the contemplative life, and can 
only lead the active life very imperfectly; without 
it repose is idleness, and labour only vexation. 
This ts why I conjure you to embrace it with 


your whole heart, and never to lay it aside.” $ 


His opinion was that one ounce of suffering was 
worth more than a pound of action; but then it 
must be of suffering sent by God, and not self- 
chosen. Indeed, to endure pain which is of our 
own choosing is rather to do than to suffer, and, 
speaking in general, our having chosen it spoils 
our good work, because self-love: has insinuated 
itself into our motives. We wish to serve God in 
one way, while He desires to be served in another; 
we wish what He wishes, but not as He wishes it. 
We do not submit ourselves wholly and as we 
should do to His will. 

A person who was very devout and who was 

*Psalm xv. 8. tPsalm Ixxii. 24. {Part ii. c. xii. and xiii 

252 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

accustomed to spend much time in mental prayer, 
being attacked with severe headache, was forbidden 
by her doctor to practise this devotion, as it in- 
creased her suffering and prevented her recovery. 
The patient much distressed at this prohibition 
wrote to consult our Blessed Father on the sub- 
ject, and this is his reply: 

‘‘ As regards meditation,’’ he says, ‘‘ the doc- 
tors are right. While you are so weak, you must 
abstain from it; but to make up you must double 
your ejaculatory prayers, and offer them all to God 
as an act of acquiescence in His good pleasure, 
which, though preventing you from meditating, in 
no way separates you from Himself, but, on the 
contrary, enables you to unite yourself more closely 
to Him by the practice of calm and holy resigna- 
tion. What matters it how or by what means we 
are united to God? Truly, since we seek Him 
alone, and since we find Him no less in mortifica- 
tion than in prayer, especially when He visits us 
with sickness, the one ought to be as welcome to us 
as the other. Moreover, ejaculatory prayers and 
the silent lifting of the heart to God, are really a 
continued meditation, and the patient endurance 
of pain and distress is the worthiest offering we can 
possibly make to Him who saved us through suffer- 
ing. Read also occasionally some good book that 
will fill up what is wanting to you of food for the 

Our Blessed Father considered that mortification 
without prayer is like a body without a soul; and 
prayer without mortification like a soul without a 
body. He desired that the two should never be 

Upon Mortification and Prayer 258 

separated, but that, like Martha and Mary, they 
should without disputing, nay, in perect harmony, 
unite in serving our Lord. He compared them to 
the scales in a balance, one of which goes down 
when the other goes up. In order to raise the soul 
by prayer, we must lower the body by mortifica- 
tion, otherwise the flesh will weigh down the soul 
and hinder it from rising up to God, whose spirit 
will not dwell with a man sunk in gross material 
delights or cares. 

The lily and the rose of prayer and contempla- 
tion can only grow and flourish among the thorns 
of mortification. We cannot reach the hill of in- 
cense, the symbol of prayer, except by the steep 
ascent on which we find the myrrh of mortification, 
needed to preserve our bodies from the corruption 
of sin. 

Just as incense, which in Scripture represents 
prayer, does not give forth its perfume until it is 
burned, neither can prayer ascend to Heaven unless 
it proceeds from a mortified heart. Mortification 
averts temptations, and prayer becomes easy when 
we are sheltered under the protecting wings of 
mortification. When we are dead to ourselves and 
to our passions we begin to live to God. He 
begins to feed us in prayer with the bread of life 
and understanding, and with the manna of His 
inspirations. In fine, we become like that pillar 
of aromatic smoke to which the Bride is compared, 
compounded of all the spices of the perfumer.* 

Our Blessed Father’s maxim on this subject was 
that: ‘‘ We ought to live in this world as if our 
soul were in heaven and our body in the tomb.” 

*Cant. iii. 6, 

254 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 


The practice of recollection of the presence of 
God was so much insisted upon by our Blessed 
Father that, as you know, my sisters, he recom- 
mended it to your Congregation to be the daily 
bread and constant nourishment of your souls. 

He used to say that to be recollected in God is 
the occupation of the blessed; nay, more, the very 
essence of their blessedness. Our Lord in the 
Gospel says that the angels see continually, with- 
out interruption or intermission, the face of their 
Father in heaven, and is it not life eternal to see 
God and to be always in His most holy presence, 
like the angels, who are called the supporters of 
His throne. 

You know that whenever you are gathered to- 
gether for recreation, one of you is always 
appointed as a sort of sentinel to watch over the 
proper observance of this holy practice, pro- 
nouncing from time to time, aloud, these words: 
“Sisters, we remind your Charities of the holy 
presence of God,” adding, if it has been a day of 
general communion, ‘‘ and of the holy communion 
of to-day.” 

Our Blessed Father on this subject says in his 
Devout Life: ‘‘ Begin all your prayers, whether 
mental or vocal, by an act of the presence of God. 
Adhere strictly to this rule, the value of which you 
will soon realize.’’* 

And again: ‘“‘ Most of the failures of good 
people in the discharge of their duty come to pass 
because they do not keep themselves sufficiently in 
the presence of God.” 

*Part ti. chap. i 

His unity of spirit with God 255 

If you desire more instruction on the matter, 
read again what he has written about it in the same 


He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit,* says 
St. Paul. 

Our Blessed Father had arrived at that degree 
of union with God which is in some sort a unity, 
because the will of God in it becomes the soul of our 
will, that is, its life and moving principle, even as 
our soul is the life and the moving principle of our 
body. Hence his rapturous ejaculation: ‘‘ Oh! 
how good a thing it is to live only in God, to 
labour only in God, to rejoice only in God! ” 

Again, he expresses this sentiment even more 
forcibly in the following words: ‘‘ Henceforth, 
with the help of God’s grace, I will no longer de- 
sire to be anything to any one, or that any one 
be anything to me, save in God, and for God only. 
I hope to attain to this when I shall have abased 
myself utterly before Him. Blessed be God! It 
seems to me that all things are indeed as nothing 
to me now, except in Him, for whom and in whom 
I love every soul more and more tenderly.” 

Elsewhere he says: ‘‘ Ah! when will this poor 
human love of attentions, courtesies, responsive- 
ness, sympathy, and favours be purified and 
brought into perfect accordance with the all pure 
love of the Divine will? When will our self-love 
cease to desire outward tokens of God’s nearness 
and rest content with the changeless and abiding 
assurance which He gives to us of His eternity? 

*i Gor. wir 19; 

256 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

What can sensible presence add to a love which 
God has made, which He supports, and which He 
maintains? What marks can be lacking of per- 
severance in a unity which God has created? 
Neither presence nor absence can add anything to 
a love formed by God Himself.” 


In one of his letters written to a person both 
virtuous and honourable, in whom he had great 
confidence, he says: ‘‘If you only knew how God 
deals with my heart, you would thank Him for His 
goodness to me, and entreat Him to give me the 
spirit of counsel and of fortitude, so that I may 
rightly act upon the inspirations of wisdom and 
understanding which He communicates to me.” 
He often expressed the same thought to me in 
different words. “‘Ah!’’ he would say, ‘‘ how good 
must not the God of Israel be to such as are 
upright of heart, since He is so gracious to those 
even who have a heart like mine, miserable, heed- 
less of His graces, and earth-bound! Oh! how 
sweet is His spirit to the souls that love Him and 
seek Him with all their might! Truly, His name 
is as balm, and it is no wonder that so many ardent 
spirits follow Him with enthusiastic devotion, 
eagerly and joyously hastening to Him, led by the 
sweetness of His attractions. Oh! what great 
things we are taught by the unction of divine good- 
ness! Being at the same time illumined by so soft 
and calm a light that we can scarcely tell whether 
the sweetness is more grateful than the light, or 

His gratitude to God, £c. 257 

the light than the sweetness! Truly, the breasts 
of the Spouse are better than wine, and sweeter 
than all the perfumes of Arabia.* 

Sometimes I tremble for fear that God may be 
giving me my Paradise in this world! I do not 
really know what adversity is; I have never looked 
poverty in the face; the pains which I have expe- 
rienced have been mere scratches, just grazing the 
skin ; the calumnies spoken against me are nothing 
but a gust of wind, and the remembrance of them 
dies away with the sound of the voice which utters 
them. It is not only that I am free from the ills 
of life, I am, as it were, choked with good things, 
both temporal and spiritual. Yet in the midst of 
all I remain ungrateful and insensible to His good- 
ness. Oh! for pity’s sake, help me sometimes to 
thank God, and to pray Him not to let me have 
all my reward at once! 

He, indeed, shows that He knows my weakness 
and my misery by treating me thus like a child, 
and feeding me with sweetmeats and milk, rather 
than with more solid food. But oh, when will He 
give me the grace, after having basked in the sun- 
shine of His favours, to sigh and groan a little 
under the burden of His Cross, since to reign with 
Him, we must suffer with Him, and to live with 
Him, we must die together with Him? Assuredly 
we must either love or die, or rather we must die 
that we may love Him; that is to say, die to all 
other love to live only for His love, and live only 
for Him who died that we may live eternally in 
the embrace of His divine goodness.” 

“Gamticn i by è 

258 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 


Although he was himself very easily moved to 
tears, he did not set any specially high value on 
what is called the gift of tears, except when it pro- 
ceeds, not from nature, but directly from the 
Father of light, who sends His rain upon the earth 
from the clouds. He told me once that, just as it 
would be contrary to physical laws for rain, in 
place of falling from heaven to earth, to rise from 
earth to heaven; so it was against all order that 
sensible devotion should produce that which is 
supernatural. For this would be for nature to 
produce grace. He compared tears shed, in 
moments of mental excitement, by persons gifted 
with a strong power of imagination, to hot rains 
which fall during the most sultry days of summer, 
and which scorch rather than refresh vegetation. 
But when supernatural devotion, seated in the 
higher powers of the soul, breaking down all re- 
straining banks, spreads itself over the whole being 
of man, he compared the tears it causes him to 
shed to a mighty, irresistible and fertilising torrent, 
making glad the City of God. Tears of this sort, 
he thought much to be desired, seeing that they 
give great glory to God and profit to the soul. Of 
those who shed such tears, he said, the Gospel 
Beatitude speaks when it tells us that: Blessed 
are they that weep.* 

In one of his letters he writes as follows: ‘‘I say 
nothing, my good daughter, about your imagining 
yourself hard of heart, because you have no tears 
to shed. No, my child, your heart has nothing to 

*Matt: v. 5s. 

Upon the shedding of tears 259 

do with this. Your lack of tears proceeds not from 
any want of affectionate resolve to love, God, but 
from the absence of sensible devotion, which does 
not depend at all upon our heart, but upon our 
natural temperament, which we are unable to 
change. for just as in this world it is impossible 
for us to make rain to fali when we want it, or to 
stop it at our own good ;'leasure, so also it is not 
in our power to weep from a feeling of devotion 
when we want to do so, or, on the other hand, not 
to weep when carried away by our emotion. Our 
remaining unmoved at prayer and meditation pro- 
ceeds, not from any fault of ours, but from the 
providence of God, who wishes us to travel by 
land, and often by desert land, rather than by 
water, and who wills to accustom us to labour and 
hardship in our spiritual life.” On this same sub- 
ject I once heard him make one of his delightful 
remarks: “ What!” he cried, ‘‘are not dry sweet- 
meats quite as good as sweet drinks? Indeed they 
have one special advantage. You can carry them 
about with you in your pocket, whereas the sweet 
drink must be disposed of on the spot. It is 
childish to refuse to eat your food when none other 
is to be had, because it is quite dry. The sea is 
God’s, for He made it, but His hands also laid the 
foundations of the dry land, that is to say, of the 
earth. We are land animals, not fish. One goes 
to heaven by land as easily as by water. God does 
not send the deluge every day. Great floods are 
not less to be feared than great droughts! ” 


As the blessedness of the life to come is called 

260 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

joy in Scripture, Good and faithful servant, enter 
into the joy of thy Lord, so also it is in joy that 
the happiness of this present life consists. Not, 
however, in all kinds of joy, for the joy of the 
hypocrite is but for a moment,* that is to say, 
lasts but for a moment. 

It is said of the wicked that they spend their 
days in wealth, and in a moment go down to hell,t 
and that mourning taketh hold of the end ef false 

True, joy can only proceed from inward peace, 
and this peace from the testimony of a good con- 
science, which is called a continual feast.§ 

This is that joy of the Lord, and in the Lord, 
which the Apostle recommends so strongly, pro- 
vided it be accompanied by charity and modesty. 

Our Blessed Father thought so highly of this 
joyous peace and peaceful joy that he looked upon 
it as constituting the only true happiness possible 
in this life. Indeed he put this belief of his into 
such constant practice that a great servant of God, 
one of his most intimate friends, declared him to 
be the possessor of an imperturbable and unalter- 
able peace. 

On the other hand, he was as great an enemy to 
sadness, trouble, and undue hurry and eagerness, 
as he was a friend to peace and joy. Besides all 
that he says on the subject in his Philothea and his 
Theotimus, he writes thus to a soul who, under the 
pretext of austerity and penance, had abandoned 
herself to disquietude and grief: Be at peace, and 
nourish your heart with the sweetness of heavenly 

* Job xx. § tfob xxi. 13. @ Prov. xiv. 1, 
$ Ibid, xv. 15. 

Upon the degrees of true devotion 261 

love, without which man’s heart is without life, and 
man’s life without happiness. Never give way to 
sadness, that enemy of devotion. What is there 
that should be able to sadden the servant of Him 
who will be our joy through all eternity? Surely 
sin, and sin only, should cast us down and grieve 
us. If we have sinned, when once our act of sorrow 
at having sinned has been made, there ought to 
follow in its train joy and holy consolation. 


Loving devotion, or devout love, has three 
degrees, which are: 1. When we perform those 
exercises which relate to the service of God, but 
with some sluggishness. 2. When we betake 
ourselves to them with readiness. 3. When we 
run and even fly to execute them with joy and 
with eagerness. 

Our Blessed Father illustrates this by two very 
apt comparisons. 

‘‘ Ostriches never fly, barn door fowls fly heavily, 
close to the ground, and but seldom; eagles, doves, 
and swallows fly often, swiftly and high. Thus 
sinners never fly to God, but keep to the ground, 
nor so much as look up to Him. 

Those who are in God’s grace but have not yet 
attained to devotion, fly to God by their good 
actions rarely, slowly, and very heavily; but 
devout souls fly to God frequently and promptly 
and soar high above the earth.’’* His second com- 
parison is this: 

‘‘ Just as a man when convalescent from an ill- 
ness walks as much as is necessary, but slowly and 

*The Devout Life. Part i. c. i. 

262 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

wearily, so the sinner being healed from his 
iniquity walks as much as God commands him to 
do, but still only slowly and heavily, until he 
attains to devotion. Thev, like a man in robust 
health, he runs and bounds along the way of God’s 
commandments; and, more than that, he passes 
swiftly into the paths of the counsels and of 
heavenly inspirations. In fact, charity and super- 
natural devotion are not more different from one 
another than flame from fire, seeing that charity is 
a Spiritual fire, and when its flame burns fiercely 
is called devotion. ‘Thus devotion adds nothing to 
the fire of charity except the flame, which renders 
charity prompt, active, and diligent, not only in 
observing the commandments of God, but also in 
the practice of the counsels and heavenly inspira- 

It was his opinion that the touchstone of true 
devotion is the regulation of exercises of piety 
according to one’s state of life. He often 
compared devotion to a liquid which takes the form 
of the vessel into which it is put. Here are his 
words to Philothea on the subject*: ‘* Devotion,” 
he says, ‘‘ must be differently practised by a gentle- 
man, by an artisan, by a servant, by a prince, by a 
widow, by a maiden, by a wife, and not only must 
the practice of devotion be different, but it must in 
measure and in degree be accommodated to the 
strength, occupations, and duties of each indi- 
vidual. I ask you, Philothea, would it be proper 
for a Bishop to wish to lead the solitary life of a 
Carthusian monk? If a father of a family were as 

*The Devout Life. Part i. c. 3. 

The test of true devotion 263 

heedless of heaping up riches as a Capuchin; if an 
artisan spent the whole day in church like a monk; 
if a monk, like a Bishop, were constantly in contact 
with the world in the service of his neighbour, 
would not the devotion of each of ihese be mis- 
placed, ill-regulated, and laughable? Yet this mis- 
take is very often made, and the world, which can- 
not or will not distinguish between devotion and 
indiscretion in those who think themselves devout, 
murmurs against and blames piety in general, 
though in reality piety has nothing to do with mis- 
takes such as these.’’ 

He goes on to say: ‘“ When creating them, God 
commanded the plants to bring forth their fruits, 
each according to its kind; so He commands chris- 
tians, who are the living plants of His Church, to 
produce fruits of devotion, each according to his 
state of life and calling.” 

At the close of the same chapter, our Blessed 
Father says: ‘‘ Devotion or piety, when it is real, 
spoils nothing, but on the contrary perfects every- 
thing. Whenever it clashes with the legitimate 
calling of those who profess it, you may be quite 
certain that such devotion is spurious. ‘The 
bee,’ says Aristotle, ‘draws her honey from a 
flower, without injuring that flower in the least, 
and leaves it fresh and intact as she found it.’ ” 


Some think that they are not making any pro- 
gress in the service of God unless they feel sensible 
devotion and interior joy continually, forgetting 
that the road to heaven is not carpeted with rose 
leaves but rather bristling with thorns. Does not 

264 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

the divine oracle tell us that through much tribula- 
tion we must enter the Kingdom of Heaven? And 
that it is only taken by those who do violence to 
themselves? Our Blessed Father writes thus to a 
soul that was making the above mistake: 

‘“ Live wholly for God, and for the sake of the 
love which He has borne to you, do you bear with 
yourself in all your miseries. In fact, the being a 
good servant of God does not mean the being always 
spiritually consoled, the always feeling sweet 
and calm, the never feeling aversion or repugnance 
to what is good. If this were so, neither St. Paul, 
nor St. Angela, nor St. Catherine of Siena, could 
have served God well. To be a servant of God is 
to be charitable towards our neighbour, to have, in 
the superior part of our soul, an unswerving resolu- 
tion to follow the will of God, joined to the deepest 
humility and a simple confidence in Him; however 
many times we fall, always to rise up again; in 
fine, to be patient with ourselves in our miseries, 
and with others in their imperfections.” 

Another error into which good people fall is that 
of always wanting to find out whether or not they 
are in a state of grace. If you tranquillize them on 
this point, then they begin to torment themselves 
as to the exact amount of progress they have made, 
and are actually making, in this happy state of 
grace, as though their progress were in any way 
their own work. They quite forget that though 
one may plant and another water, it is God who 
gives the increase. 

In order to cure this spiritual malady, which bor- 
ders very closely upon presumption, he gives in 
another of his letters the following wise counsel: 

That devotion does not always, dc. 265 

“ Remember that all that is past is nothing, and 
that every day we should say with David: Now 
only am I beginning to love my God truly. Do 
much for God, and do nothing without love, let 
this be your aim, eat and drink for this.” 


‘‘Do not deceive yourself,” he once said to me, 
‘‘ people may be very devout, and at the same time 
vemy wicked.’ ‘But,’ I said, “‘they are then 
surely not devout, but hypocrites!’’ ‘‘ No, no,” 
he answered, ‘‘I am speaking of true devotion.” 
As I was quite unable to solve this riddle, I begged 
him to explain it to me, which he did most kindly, 
and, if I can trust my memory, more or less as fol- 

‘“ Devotion is of itself and of its own nature a 
moral and acquired virtue, not one that is super- 
natural and infused, otherwise it would be a theo- 
logical virtue, which it is not. It is then a virtue, 
subordinate to that which is called Religion, and 
according to some is only one of its acts;* as 
religion again is subordinate to one of the four 
cardinal virtues, namely justice. Now you know 
that all the moral virtues, and even the theological 
ones of faith and hope, are compatible with mortal 
sin, although become, as it were, shapeless and 
dead, being without charity, which is their form, 
their soul, their very life. For, if one can have 
faith so great as to be able to move mountains, 
without charity, and yet, precisely because charity 
is absent, be utterly worthless and wicked; if it is 
possible to be a true prophet and yet a bad man, 

*S. Thomas 24, 24¢€, Quaest, lxxxi., art. 2. 

266 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

as were Saul, Balaam, and Caiphas; to work 
miracles as Judas is believed to have done, and yet 
to be sinful as he was; if we can give all our goods 
to the poor, and suffer martyrdom by fire, without 
having charity, much more may we be devout with- 
out being charitable, since devotion is a virtue less 
estimable in its nature than those which we have 
mentioned. You must not then think it strange 
when I tell you that it is possible to be devout and 
yet wicked, since we may have faith, mercy, 
patience, and constancy to the extent of which I 
have spoken, and yet, with all that be stained with 
many deadly vices, such as pride, envy, hatred, in- 
temperance, and the like.” 

“What then; 1 asked, “is a truly devour 
man?” He answered: “I tell you again that, 
though in sin, one may be truly devout. But such 
devotion, though a virtue, is dead, not living.” I 
rejoined: ‘‘ But how can this dead devotion be 
real?” ‘‘In the same way,” he replied, :“‘as a 
dead body is a real body, soulless though it be.” 
I rejoined: ‘* But a dead body is not really a man.” 
He answered: ‘“‘ It is not a true man, whole and 
perfect, but it is the true body of a man, and the 
body of a true man though dead. Thus, devotion 
without charity is true, though dead and imperfect. 
It is true devotion dead and shapeless, but not true 
devotion living and fully formed. It is only neces- 
sary to draw a distinction between the words, true, 
and complete or perfect, which is done so clearly by 
St. Thomas,* in order to find the solution of your 
difficulty. He who possesses devotion without 
charity has true , but not perfect or complete devo- 

*2a, 2a€ Quaest, Ixxxii. to lxxxviii. 

That devotion does not always, £c. 267 

tion; in him who has charity, devotion is not only 
true but perfect. By charity he becomes good, and 
by devotion idevout; losing charity he loses super- 
natural goodness and becomes sinful or bad, but 
does not necessarily cease to be devout. This is 
why I told you that one could be devout and yet 
wicked. So also by mortal sin we do not recessarily 
lose faith or hope, except we deliberateiy make an 
act of unbelief or of despair.’’ 

He had expressed a somewhat similar idea in 
the first chapter of his Philothea, though I had not 
then noticed it. These are his words: 

‘Devotion is nothing more than a spiritual 
agility and vivacity, helped by which charity acts 
more readily; or better, helped by which we more 
readily elicit acts of charity. It belongs to charity to 
make us keep God’s commandments, but it belongs 
to devotion to make us keep them promptly and 
diligently. This is why he who does not observe 
all the commandments of God cannot be con- 
sidered either good or supernaturally devout, since 
in order to be good we must have charity, and to 
be devout we must have besides charity great alert- 
ness and promptitude in doing charitable actions.’’* 

In another of his books, speaking to Theotimus, 
he says: 

“ All true lovers of God are equal in this, that all 
give their heart to God, and with all their strength ; 
but they are unequal in this, that they give it 
diversely and in different manners, whence some 
give all their heart, with all their strength, but less 
perfectly than others. This one gives it all by mar- 
tyrdom; this, all by virginity; this, all by the 

*The Devout Life, Part i., chap. 1. 

268 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

pastoral office; and whilst all give it all by the 
observance of the commandments, yet some give it 
with less perfection than others.’’* 

We must remember that true devotion cannot be 
restricted to the practice of one virtue only ; we must 
employ all our powers in the worship and service 
of God. One of the chief maxims of Blessed 
Francis was that the sort of devotion which is not 
only not a hindrance but actually a help to us in our 
legitimate calling is the only true one for us, and 
that any other is false for us. He illustrates this 
teaching to Philothea by saying that devotion is 
like a liquid which takes the shape of the vessel 
into which it is put. He even went further, boldly 
declaring that it was not simply an error but a 
heresy to exclude devotion from any calling what- 
ever, provided it be a just and legitimate one. This 
shows the mistake of those who imagine that we 
cannot save our souls in the world, as if salvation 
were only for the Pharisee, and not for the Pub- 
lican, nor for the house of Zaccheus. This error 
which approaches very nearly to that of Pelagius, 
makes salvation to be dependent on certain callings, 
as though the saving of our souls were the work of 
nature rather than of grace. Our Blessed Father 
supports his teaching in this matter by many 
examples, proving that in every condition of life 
we may be holy and may consequently save our 
souls, and arrive at a very high degree of 

He concludes by saying: ‘‘ Some even have been 
known to lose perfection in solitude, which is often 
so helpful for its attainment, and to have regained 

*Book x., chap. 3. 

Upon perfect contentment, ce. 269 

it in a busy city life which seems to be so unfavour- 
able to it. Wherever we are, we can and ought to 
aspire to the perfect life.” 


It is true that the devout life, which is nothing 
but an intense and fervent love of God, isan angelic 
life and full of contentment and of extraordinary 
consolation. It is, however, also true that those 
who submit themselves to the discipline of God, 
even while experiencing the sweetness of this divine 
love, must prepare their soul for temptation. The 
path which leads to the Land of Promise is beset 
with difficulties—dryness, sadness, desolation, and 
faint-hearted fears—and would end in bewildering 
discouragement, did not Faith and Hope, like 
Joshua and Caleb, show us the fair fruits of this 
much to be desired country, and thus animate us to 

But He who brings light out of darkness, and 
toses out of thorns, who helps us in all our tribu- 
lations, and performs wonders in heaven and 
earth, makes the happy souls whom He leads 
through His will to His glory to find perfect con- 
tent in the loss of all content, both corporal and 
spiritual when once they recognize that it is the 
will of God that they should go to Him by the 
way of darkness, perplexity, crosses, and anguish. 

In saying this I am putting into my own words 
the thoughts of our Blessed Father as expressed in 
the eleventh chapter of the sixth book of his 
Treatise on the Love of God. 

270 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 


Meditating this morning on that passage of Holy 
Scripture which tells us that the life of man is in 
the good will of God,* I reflected that to live 
according to the will of the flesh, that is, according 
to the human will, is not really life, since the pru- 
dence of the flesh is death; but that to live accord- 
ing to the will of God is the true life of the soul, 
since the grace attacited to that divine will im- 
parts a life to our soul far higher than the life our 
soul imparts to our body. 

The divine will is our sanctification, and this 
sanctification is the gate of eternal life; of that true 
life in comparison with which the life which we lead 
on earth is more truly a death. To live in God, in 
whom is true life, is to live according to His will. 

Our life, then, is to do His will. This made 
St. Paul say that he lived, yet not he himself, but 
that Jesus Christ lived in him,t because he had 
only one will and one mind with Jesus Christ. I 
was rejoiced to find that unconsciously my thoughts 
on this subject had followed closely in the track of 
our Blessed Father’s when he meditated on the 
same passage. This I discovered on reading these 
words in one of his letters: 

“ This morning, being alone for a few moments, 
I made an act of extraordinary resignation which 
I cannot put on paper, but reserve until God per- 
mits me to see you, when you shall know it by 
word of mouth. Oh! how blessed are the souls 
who live on the will of God alone. Ah! if even 
to taste a little of that blessedness in a passing 

*Psalm xxix. 6. Gal. ii. 20. 

His Resignation to the Will of God 271 

meditation is so sweet to the heart which accepts 
that holy will with all the crosses it offers, what 
must the happiness be of a soul all steeped in that 
will? Oh! my God, what a blessed thing is it 
not to bring all our affections into a humble and 
absolute subjection to the divine love! This we 
have said, this we have resolved to do, and our 
hearts have taken the greatest glory of the love of 
God for their sovereign law. Now the glory of 
this holy love consists in its power of burning and 
consuming all that is not itself, that all may be 
resolved and changed into it. God exalts Him- 
self upon our annihilation of ourselves and reigns 
upon the throne of our voluntary servitude.’ 


It happened that Blessed Francis fell ill at the 
very time when his predecessor in the Bishopric of 
Geneva was imploring the Holy See to appoint him 
as his coadjutor. 

The illness was so serious that the physicians 
despaired of his life, and this our Blessed Father 
was told. He received the announcement quite 
calmly, and even joyfully, as though he saw the 
heavens open and ready to receive him, and being 
entirely resigned to the will of God both in life 
and in death, said only: 

‘‘ I belong to God, let Him do with me according 
to His good pleasure.” 

When someone in his presence said that he ought 
to wish to live if not for the service of God at least 
that he might do penance for his sins, he answered 
thus: “‘It is certain that sooner or later we must 
die, and whenever it may be, we shall always have 

272 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

need of the great mercy of God: we may as well 
fall into His pitiful hands to-day as to-morrow. 
He is at all times the same, full of kindness, and 
rich in mercy to all those who call upon Him: and 
we are always evil, conceived in iniquity, and sub- 
ject to sin even from our mother’s womb. He who 
finishes his course earlier than others has less of an 
account to render. I can see that there is a design 
afoot to lay upon me a burden not less formidable to 
me than death itself. Between the two I should 
find it hard to choose. It is far better to submit 
myself to the care of Providence: far better to 
sleep upon the breast of Jesus Christ than anywhere 
else. God loves us. He knows better than we do 
what is good for us. Whether we live, or whether 
we die, we are the Lord’s.* He has the keys of 
life, and of death.t They who hope in Him are 
never confounded.t Let us also go, and die with 
Him.” And when someone said it was a pity he 
should die in the flower of his age (he was only 
thirty-five), he answered: ‘‘ Our Lord was still 
younger when He died. The number of our days 
is before Him, He can gather the fruits which be- 
long to Him at any season. Do not let us waste 
our time and thoughts over circumstances; let us 
consider only His most holy will. Let that be 
our guiding star; it will lead us to Jesus Christ 
whether in the crib, or on Calvary. Whoever fol- 
lows Him shall not walk in darkness but shall have 
the light of eternal life, and shall be no more sub- 
ject to death.’’ 

These were the words, this was the perfect 
resignation, of our Blessed Father. Who can say 

*Rom. xiv. 8. tApoc. i. 18. {Psalm xxiv. 3, 

That we must always submit, £e. 273 

we have not here the cause of the prolongation of 
his days, even as a like resignation led to the pro- 
longing of those of King Ezechias. 

Gop’s Hoty WILL. 

In 1619, when our Saint was in Paris with the 
Prince of Savoy, a gentleman of the court fell 
dangerously ill. He sent for Blessed Francis, 
who, when visiting him, remarked with some sur- 
prise that, although he bore his physical sufferings 
with great patience, he fretted grievously about 
other troubles seemingly of very small moment. 
He was distressed at the thought of dying away 
from home, at being unable to give his family his 
last blessing, at not having his accustomed 
physician by his side, etc. Then he would begin 
to worry about the details of his funeral, the inscrip- 
tion on his tombstone, and so on. Nothing was 
right in his surroundings; the sky of Paris, his 
doctors and nurses, his servants, his bed, his 
rooms, all were matters of com^laint. ‘‘ Strange 
inconsistency !’’ exclaimed the holy Bishop. ‘‘ Here 
is a brave soldier and a great statesman, fretted by 
the merest trifles, and unhappy because he cannot 
die in exactly the circumstances which he would 
have chosen for himself.” Iam glad to be able to 
add that in spite of all this the poor man made a 
holy and a happy end. 

But Blessed Francis afterwards said to me: “ It 
is not enough to will what God wills, we must also 
desire that all should be exactly, even in the minu- 
test detail and particular, as God wills it to be. For 
instance, in regard to sickness we should be willing 


274 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

to be sick because it pleases God that we should be 
so; and sick of that very sickness which God sends 
us, not of one of a different character; and sick at 
such time, and in such place, and surrounded by 
such attendants, as it may please God to appoint. 
In short, we must in all things take for our law the 
most holy will of God.” 


Many of the saints, and especially St. Catherine 
of Siena, St. Philip Neri, and St. Ignatius Loyola, 
have spoken in the most beautiful and elevated 
language of that holy indifference which, spring- 
ing from the love of God, makes life or death and 
all the circumstances of the one or the other 
equally acceptable to the soul which realizes that 
all is ordered by the will of God. 

Let us hear what our Blessed Father says on this 
subject in his Treatise on the Love of God. 

‘“God’s will is the sovereign object of the in- 
different soul; wheresoever she sees it she runs 
after the odour of its perfumes, directing her course 
ever thither where it most appears, without con- 
sidering anything else. She is conducted by the 
divine will, as by a beloved chain; which way 
soever it goes she follows it: she would prize hell 
with God’s will more than heaven without it; nay, 
she would even prefer hell before heaven if she 
perceived only a little more of God’s good-pleasure 
in that than in this, so that if—to suppose what is 
impossible—she should know that her damnation 
would be more agreeable to God than her 

His sublime thoughts, ée. 275 

salvation, she would quit her salvation and run to 
her damnation.’’* 

This is, indeed, a bold and daring proposition, 
but to convince you how tenaciously he clung to 
it I would remind you of his words in the Con- 
ferences;+ on the same subject: ‘‘ The saints 
who are in heaven are so closely united to 
the will of God that if there were even a little more 
of His good-pleasure in hell than in paradise they 
would quit paradise to go there.’ And again in 
the same Conference: ‘‘ Whether the malady con- 
quers the remedies or the remedies get the better 
of the malady should be a matter of perfect 
indifference. So much so that if sickness and health 
were put before us and our Lord were to say to 
us: ‘If thou choose health I will not deprive thee 
of a single particle of my grace, if thou choose 
sickness I shall not in any degree increase that 
grace, but in the choice of sickness there is a 
little more of my good-pleasure,’ the soul which 
has wholly forsaken herself and abandoned herself 
into the hands of our Lord will undoubtedly choose 
sickness solely because it is more pleasing to God. 
Nay, though this might mean a whole lifetime 
spent on her couch in constant suffering, she would 
not for any earthly consideration desire to be in 
any other condition than this.” 


“Nothing happens to us,’’ Blessed Francis was 
accustomed to say, ‘‘ whether of good or of evil, 
sin alone excepted, but by the will of God.’’ Good, 
because God is the source of all good. Every 

"Bk ix., c. 5. Ẹ{Conf. ik 

276 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

best gift and every perfect gift 1s from above, com- 
ing down from the Father of lights.* Evil, for, 
Shall there be evil in the city which the Lord hath 
not done?+ The evil here spoken of is that of pain 
or trouble, seeing that God cannot will the evil of 
crime, which is sin, though he permits it, allowing 
the human will to act according to the natural 
liberty which He has given to it. Properly speak- 
ing, Sin cannot be said to happen to us, because 
what happens to us must come from without, and 
sin, on the contrary, comes from within, proceeding 
from our hearts, as holy Scripture expressly states, 
telling us also that iniquity comes from our fat- 
ness,t that is to say, from our ease and luxury. 

Oh, what a happiness it would be for our souls 
if we accustomed ourselves to receive all things 
from the fatherly hand of Him who, in opening 
it, fills all things living with blessing! What 
unction should we not draw from this in our adver- 
sities! What honey from the rock, what oil from 
the stones! And with how much mcderation should 
we not behave in prosperity, since God sends us 
both the one and the other, that we may use both 
to the praise and glory of His grace. 


I must confess to you, my sisters, that I was 
astonished to read in one of our Saint’s letters that 
our Lord Jesus Christ did not possess the quality 
of indifference in the sensitive part of His nature. 

I will give the exact words in which this wonder- 
ful fact is stated. ‘* This virtue of indifference,” 
he says, “‘is so excellent that our old Adam, and 

*St. James i. 17. +Amos iii. 6 tPsalm lxxii. 7. 

Upon the same subject 277 

the sensitive part of our human nature, so far as 
its natural powers go, is not capable of it, no, not 
even in our Lord, who, as a child of Adam, 
although exempt from all sin, and from everything 
pertaining to sin, yet in the sensitive part of his 
nature and as regards his human faculties was in 
no way indifferent, but desired not to die upon the 
Cross. Indifference, and the exercise of it, is 
entirely reserved for the spirit, for the supreme por- 
tion of our nature, for faculties set on fire by grace, 
and in fine for Himself personally, inasmuch as 
He is divine and human, the New Man. How, 
then, can we complain when as far as this lower 
portion of our nature is concerned we find ourselves 
unable to be indifferent to life, and to death, to 
health, and to sickness, to honour and to ignominy, 
to pleasure and to pain, to comfort and to discom- 
fort, when, in a word, we feel in ourselves that 
conflict going on which the vessel of election 
experienced in such a manner as to make him 
exclaim: Unhappy man that I am, who shall 
deliver me from the body of this death ?* 

The love of ourselves is so deeply rooted in our 
nature that it is impossible wholly to rid ourselves 
of it. Even grace does not do away with our self- 
love, but only reduces it to the service of divine 

By the love of self I mean a natural, just, and 
legitimate love, so legitimate indeed as to be com- 
manded by the law of God which bids us love our 
neighbour as ourselves; that is to say, according 
to God’s will, which is not only the one way in 
which we can rightly love our neighbour, but also 
the one way in which we are commanded to love 

*Rom. vii. 24. 

278 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

Nevertheless, this love of ourselves, however just 
and reasonable it may be, turns only too easily, 
and too imperceptibly, into a self-love, which is 
unlawful and forbidden, but into which even per- 
sons the most earnest and the most spiritual are 
at times surprised. 

We often think we love someone, or something 
in God, and for God, when it is really only in our- 
selves, and for ourselves, that we do so. We think 
sometimes that we have only an eye to the interests 
of God, which is His glory, when it is really our 
own glory which we are seeking in our work. This 
is when we stop short voluntarily at the creature 
to the prejudice of the Creator; as comes to pass in 
all sin, whether mortal or venial. We must there- 
fore watch and be constantly on our guard lest we 
fall into this snare. From it we must snatch our 
soul as we would a bird from the snare of the 
fowler. We shall be safe if we remember that 
every just and lawful love in us is always either in 
actual touch with the love of God, or can be 
brought into such touch, whilst self-love is never 
in such touch, nor can ever be brought into it. 

This is the test by which we can detect the false 
coin that is mixed up with the true. 


I cannot tell you, my sisters, how great a point 
our Blessed Father made of self-abandonment, t.e., 
self-surrender into the hands of God. In one place 
he speaks of it as: ‘“The cream of charity, the odour 
of humility, the flower of patience, and the fruit 
of perseverance. Great,’’ he says, ‘‘is,this virtue, 
and worthy of being practised by the best beloved 

Upon abandoning ourselves to God 279 

children of God.’’* And again, ‘‘ Our Lord loves 
with a most tender love those who are so happy 
as to abandon themselves wholly to His fatherly 
care, ‘letting themselves be governed by His divine 
Providence without any idle speculations as to 
whether the workings of this Providence will be 
useful to them to their profit, or painful to their 
loss, and this because they are well assured that 
nothing can be sent, nothing permitted by 
this paternal and most toving Heart, which will 
not be a source of good and profit to them. All 
that is required is that they should place all their 
confidence in Him, and say from their heart, Into 
Thy hands I commend my spirit, my soul, my 
body, and ali that I have, to do with them as it 
shall please Thee.’’+ 

You are inclined, my sisters, to say that we are 
not all of us capable of such entire self-renuncia- 
tion, that so.supreme an act ot self-abandonment 
is beyond our strength. Hear then, too, what our 
Blessed Father goes on to say. These are his 
words in the same Conference: ‘* Never are we 
reduced to such an extremity that we cannot pour 
forth before the divine majesty the perfume of a 
holy submission to His most holy will, and of a 
continual promise never wilfully to offend Him.” 


As there are more thorns than roses in our earthly 
life, and more dull days than sunny ones, so also 
in our spiritual life our souls are more frequently 
clouded by a sense of desolation, dryness, and 
gloom, than irradiated by heavenly consolations 
and brightness. 

*+Conf,. 2. 

280 The Spirit of St. Francs De Sales 

Yet our Blessed Father says that ‘‘ those are 
mistaken who think that, even in christians, whose 
conscience does not accuse them of sins unconfessed, 
but on the contrary bears good witness for them, a 
heavy heart and sorrow-laden mind is a proof of 
God’s displeasure. 

Has God not said that He is with us in tribula- 
tion, and is not His Cross the mark of the chosen ? 
At the birth of Jesus, while the shepherds were 
surrounded by the, light which shone from heaven 
and their ears filled with the songs of angels, Mary 
and Joseph were in the stable in the darkness of 
night, the silence only broken by the weeping of 
the Holy Child. Yet who would not rather be with 
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in that shadowy gloom 
than with the shepherds even in their ecstasy of 
heavenly joy? St. Peter, indeed, amid the glories 
of Thabor said: It is good to be here, let us make 
here three tabernacles.* But Holy Scripture 
adds: Not knowing what he said. 

The faithful soul loves Jesus ‘covered with 
wounds and disfigurements on Calvary, amid the 
darkness, the: blood, the crosses, the nails, the 
thorns, and the horror of death: loves Him, I say, 
as dearly, as fervently as in His triumph, and cries 
out from a full heart amid all this desolation : 

Let:us make here three tabernacles, one for Jesus, 
one for His holy Mother, and one for His beloved 


There is, I think, no greater temptation than one 
*Luke ix. 35. 

Upon the presence in our souls, dc. 281 

which assails many good people, namely, the desire 
to know for certain whether or not they are in a 
state of grace. 

To a poor soul entangled in a perfect spider’s 
web of doubt and mistrust, our Blessed Father 
wrote the following consoling words: ‘‘ To try and 
discover whether or not your heart is pleasing to 
God is a thing you must not do, though you may 
undoubtedlv try to make sure that His Heart is 
pleasing to you. Now, if you meditate upon His 
Heart it will be impossible but that it should be 
well pleasing to you, so Sweet is it, so gentle, so 
condescending, so loving towards those of His 
poor creatures who do but acknowledge their 
wretchedness: so gracious to the unhappy, so good 
to the penitent. Ah! who would not love this 
royal: Heart, which to us is as the heart both of a 
father and of a mother? 

As regards interior desolation there are some 
souls who seem to think that no devotion is worthy 
of the name which is not sensible and full of 

To one who complained to our Blessed Father 
of having lost all relish for exercises of piety, he 
wrote in the following words: ‘‘ The love of God 
consists neither in consolations nor in tenderness— 
otherwise our Lord would not have loved His 
father when He was sorrowful unto death, nor when 
He cried out, My God, my God, why hast Thou 
forsaken me?* That is to say, then, when He 
performed the greatest act of love that it is possible 
tO imagine. 

The truth is, we are always hungering after con- 

*Matt. xxvii. 46. 

282 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

solation, for a little sugar to be added to our 
spiritual food; in other words, we always want to 
experience our feelings of love and tenderness, and 
thereby to be cheered and comforted.”’ 


Faith teaches us, by means of the Holy Scrip- 
tures, that God ardently desires that we should 
be saved,* and that none should perish. His will 
is our sanctification, that is to say, He wishes us 
to be holy. Moreover, to prove that His desire 
is neither barren nor unhelpful, He gives us in His 
holy Church all the gracés necessary for our salva- 
tion, so that if we are lost it will only be because 
of our own wilful malice. 

Unfortunately, however, though it may be that 
all desire to save their souls, all are not willing 
to accept the means offered them for so doing. 
Hence the disorders which we see in the world 
around us and the truth, that, while many are 
called few are chosen. On this subject our 
Blessed Father speaks as follows in his Theo- 

‘“ We are,” he says, ‘fto will our salvation in 
such sort as God wills it; now He wills it by way 
of desire, and we also must incessantly desire it, 
in conformity with His desire. Nor does He will 
it only, but, in effect, gives us all necessary means 
to attain to it. We then, in fulfilment of the desire 
we have to be saved, must not only wish to be 
saved, but, in effect, must accept all the graces 
which He has provided for us, and offers us. With 
regard to salvation itself, it is enough to say: I 

*; Tim. i. 4. 

Upon good natural inclinations 2883 

desire to be saved. But, with regard to the means 
of salvation, it is not enough to say: I desire 
them. We must, with an absolute resolution, will 
and embrace the graces which God presents to us; 
for our will must correspond with God’s will. And, 
inasmuch as He gives us the means of salvation, 
we ought to avail ourselves of such means, just as 
we ought to desire salvation in such sort as God 
desires it for us, and because He desires it.’’* 


Blessed Francis always impressed upon us the 
necessity of making use for the glory of God of 
any good inclinations natural to us. “If you 
possess such,” he would say, “ remember that 
they are gifts, of which you will have to render an 
account. Take care, then, to employ them in the 
service of Him who gave them to you.  Engraft 
upon this wild stock the shoots of eternal love 
which God is ready to bestow upon you, if, by an 
act of perfect self-renunciation, you prepare your- 
self to receive them.” 

There are people who are naturaliy inclined to 
certain moral virtues, such as silence, sobriety, 
modesty, chastity, humility, patience, and the like, 
and who, however little they may cultivate these 
virtues, make great progress in them. This was 
the case with many of the great pagan philosophers 
as we know, and it is quite true, that with all of 
us, the bent and inclination of the mind towards 
the acquisition of any kind of excellence, whether 
moral or physical, is an immense assistance. Still, 

The Love of God. Bk viii. 4. 

284 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

we must bear in mind the fact that the acquiring of 
every moral virtue and every physical power, nay, 
of the whole world itself, is nothing, if, in gaining 
them, we should lose our own soul. St. Paul tells 
us this,* and for the same reason, our Blessed 
Father warns us not to keep our talents wrapped 
up in a napkin, not to hide their light under the 
bushel of nature, but to trade with them according 
to the intention of Him who is their author and 
distributor. He reminds us that this divine Giver 
who bestowed them on us in order thereby to in- 
crease His exterior glory, promises us a reward 
if we use them as He means us to do, and threatens 
us with punishment if we are careless in the matter. 

You ask me how we are to deal with these in- 
clinations and manage these talents or virtues? 
Well, you have the answer to that question in the 
words of our Blessed Father which I quoted: 
“ Engraft on the wild stock of natural inclination 
shoots of divine charity.” 


St. Francis loved those words of St. Peter: If 
any man speak, let him speak as the words of God. 
If any man minister, let him do it as of the power 
which God administreth,t and of St. Paul: All 
things whatsoever you do, whether in word or in 
work, do them in the name (that is to say, to the 
honour and glory) of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

That we may carry out this excellent precept in 
our actions, our Blessed Father gives us some 
remarkable teaching. In one of his letters he 

*1 Cor, xi. n 
+i St. Peter iv. 11. Col. iii. 17. 

How to speak of God 285 

says: ‘‘ We must never speak of God or of things 
relating to His worship, that is, of religion, care- 
lessly, and in the way of ordinary conversation, 
but always with great respect, esteem, and devo- 

This advice applies to those who speak of God 
and of religious matters as they would of any ordi- 
nary topics of conversation, without taking into 
account the circumstances of time, place, or per- 
sons. St. Jerome complained of this abuse, saying 
that whilst there are masters and experts in every 
art and science, only on matters of theology and 
Holy Scripture, the foundations of all arts and 
sciences, can few be found to speak well. Yet ques- 
tions relating to them are discussed most flippantly 
at table, and in public places; the hare-brained 
youth, the uneducated labourer, and the dotard, 
give their opinions freely on the highest mysteries 
of the Faith. 

Again, Blessed Francis says: “f Always speak 
of God as of God, that is to say, reverently 
and devoutly, not in a self-sufficient, preaching 
spirit, but with gentleness, charity, and 
humility.” * 

In the same book he gives his advice to Philo- 
thea in the following words: ‘“‘ Never, then, speak 
of God or of religion for form’s sake, or to make 
conversation, but always with attention and devo- 
tion. I tell you this, that you may not be guilty 
of an extraordinary sort of vanity, which is observ- 
able in many who profess to be devout. These 
people, on all possible occasions, throw in expres- 
sions of piety and fervour without the least thought 

Part iii., cheapie. 

286 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

of what they are saying, and, having uttered these 
phrases, imagine that they themselves are such, as 
their words would indicate, which is not at all the 


Blessed Francis had a great dislike of any kind 
of affectation or singularity practised by devout 
persons, whether in Religious houses or in the 
world. He went so far as to say that it rendered 
their piety not merely offensive, but ridiculous. 

He wished every one to conform as far as pos- 
sible to the way of life proper to his or her calling, 
without affecting any peculiarity. He gave as his 
authority for this desire the example of our Lord, 
who, in the days of His flesh, condescended to 
make Himself like to His brethren in all things 
excepting sin. 

The holy Bishop inculcated this lesson upon his 
penitents, not only by word, but much more by his 
example. Never during the whole fourteen years 
which, happily for me, I spent under his direction 
studying most closely all his actions, his very ges- 
tures, his words, and his teaching; never, I say, 
did I observe in him the faintest shadow of singu- 

I must confess to having, in order to find out 
exactly what he was, practised a ruse, which some 
might think inexcusable or impertinent. Every 
year he paid me a week’s visit, and before he came 
I took care to have some holes pierced in the doors 
or boarding of his rooms, that I might closely 
observe his behaviour when quite alone. Well, I 
can truly say that whatever he did, whether he 
prayed, read, meditated, or wrote, in his lying 

Upon eccentricities in devotion 287 

down and in his rising up, at all times and in all 
circumstances, he was the same—calm, unaffected, 
simple—his outward demeanour corresponding 
with the interior beauty of his soul. Francis quite 
alone was the very same as Francis in company. 
I think, myself, that this was the result of his con- 
tinual attention to the presence of God, a practice 
which he recommended so strongly to all who were 
under his direction. 

When he prayed, it was as though he saw the 
angels and the saints gathered round him. He 
remained for hours calm, motionless as a statue, 
and changeless in expression. 

Never, even when alone, did he for the sake of 
greater comfort sit or stand or assume attitudes 
other than those he permitted himself when in 
public. He never so much as crossed his legs, or 
rested his head on his hand. The unvarying but 
easy gravity of his demeanour naturally inspired 
an unfailing love and respect. 

He said that our exterior deportment should be 
like water which, the better it is, the more ts it taste- 

I was much pleased on hearing a very famous 
and devout person,! whom I met in Paris, say this 
to me about our Saint: That nothing brought so 
vividly to his mind what the conversation of our 
Lord Jesus Christ must have been among men, as 
the presence and angelic deportment of the holy 
Bishop, of whom one might truly say that he was 
not only clothed with, but absolutely full of, Jesus 
Christ. Nor will this appear strange to us if we 
remember that the just soul, that is to say, the soul 

1St. Vincent de Paul. 

288 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

which is in a state of grace, is said to be conformed 
to the image of the Son of God, and is called a 
participator of the divine nature. 


He advised devout people to give in their names 
boldly, and without much consultation, to the con- 
fraternities which they happened to meet with, so 
as to become by this means participators of grace 
with all those who fear God and live according to 
His law. He pitied the scruples of those good 
souls who fear to enrol themselves, lest, as they 
ignorantly imagine, they should sin by not fulfilling 
certain duties laid down in the rules given for the 
guidance and discipline of these confraternities, but 
which are rather recommended than commanded. 

“ For,” he said, “‘ if the rules of Religious Orders 
are not in themselves binding under pain of either 
mortal or venial sin, how much less so are the 
statutes of confraternities ? 

The following out of the recommendations given 
to their members to do certain things, to recite cer- 
tain prayers, to take part in certain meetings or pro- 
cessions, is a matter of counsel, and not of precept. 
To those who perform such pious actions, Indul- 
gences are granted, which those who do not 
practise them fail to gain; but such failure,even if 
wilful, is not a sin. There is much to gain, and 
nothing to lose.” 

On this subject he speaks thus to Philothea: 

“Enter readily into the confraternities of the 
place in which you are living, and specially into 
those whose exercises are the most fruitful and 
edifying. In doing this, you will be practising a 

Upon Confraternitres 289 

kind of obedience which is very pleasing to God, 
and the more so because although the joining con- 
fraternities is not commanded, yet it is recom- 
mended by the Church, who, to show that she 
desires Catholics to enrol themselves therein, grants 
Indulgences and other privileges to their members. 
Then, too, it is always a charitable thing to concur 
and co-operate with others in their good works. 
And although it may be that we should make quite 
as good exercises by ourselves as we do in com- 
mon with our fellow-members, yet we promote the 
glory of God better by uniting ourselves with our 
brethren and neighbours, and sharing our good 
deeds with them.’’* 


There are some good people whose zeal not being 
sufficiently tempered with knowledge, as soon as 
they desire to give themselves up to a devout life, 
fly from society and from intercourse with others as 
owls shun the company of birds that fly by day. 
Their morose and unsociable conduct causes a dis- 
like to be taken to devotion instead of rendering it 
sweet and attractive toall. Our Blessed Father was 
altogether opposed to such moroseness, wishing His 
devout children to be by their example a light to the 
world, and the salt of the earth, so as to impart a 
flavour to piety which might tempt the appetite of 
those who would otherwise surely turn from it with 
disgust. Toa good soul who asked him whether 
christians who wished to live with some sort of per- 
fection should see company and mix in society, he 
answers thus: ‘‘ Perfection, my dear lady, does not 

*Part ii., chap. 15. 

290 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

lie in avoiding our fellow-men, but it does lie in not 
over-relishing social pleasures and in not taking un- 
due delight in them. There is danger for us in all 
that we see ina sinful world, for we run the risk of 
fixing our affections upon things worldly; at the 
same time to those who are steadfast and resolute, 
the mere sight of the things of this world will do no 
harm. In a word, the perfection of charity is the 
perfection of life, for the life of our soul is charity. 
The early christians, who were in the world in their 
body though not in their heart, undoubtedly were 
very perfect.’’* 

As regards the world’s opinion of us, and the esti- 
mation in which we are held by others, it is not well 
to be too sensitive. At the same time, to be alto- 
gether indifferent about our reputation is blame- 
worthy. Our Blessed Prelate teaches his Philothea 
exactly what we have to do: 

“If,” he says, “‘the world despises us, let us 
rejoice, for it is right—we see for ourselves that we 
are very contemptible. If it esteems us, let us 
despise its esteem and its judgment, for it is blind. 
Trouble yourself very little about what the world 
thinks; do not ask or even care to know. Despise 
equally its appreciation and its contempt, and let it 
say what it will, good or evil. I do not approve of 
doing what is not right, that people may have a bad 
opinion of us. Transgressing is always trans- 
gressing, and weare thereby making our neighbour 
transgress likewise. On the contrary, I desire that, 
keeping our eyes always fixed upon our Lord, we do 
what we have to do without regarding what the 
world thinks of us, or its behaviour towards us. We 

*Cf. The Devout Life. Part iv., c. 7. 

Upon intercourse with the world 291 

need not endeavour to give others a good opinion 
of ourselves, yet neither have we to try to give a 
bad one, and especially must we be careful not to 
do wrong with this intent. 

But we can never stand quite well with the world; 
it is far too exacting. If out of compliance we yield 
to it, and play and dance with it, it will be scandal- 
ized; and if we do not, it will accuse us of hypocrisy 
and gloom ; if we are well-dressed it will impute to us 
some bad motive; and if we are ill-dressed it will 
call us mean; it will style our gaiety dissoluteness 
and our mortification gloom. It will exaggerate 
our failings and publish our faults; and if it cannot 
find fault with our actions it will attack our motives. 
Whatever we do the world will find fault. If we 
spend a long time at confession it will ask what we 
can have to say; if we take but a short time, it 
will say that we do not tell everything. If one little 
cross word escape us it will pronounce our temper 
unbearable; it will denounce our prudence as 
avarice, our gentleness as folly. Spiders invari- 
ably spoil the bees’ labour. Therefore, do not mind 
what opinion the world has of you, good or bad; 
do not distress yourself about it, whichever it be. 
To say that we are not what the world thinks, when 
it speaks well of us, is wise, for the world, like a 
quack doctor, always exaggerates.” 

You question me, regarding the contempt which 
we should feel for the world and the world’s opinion 
of us; in other words you want to know exactly what 
St. Paul means when he says that, being crucified 
to the world and the world to us, we should glory 
only in the Cross of our Saviour Jesus Christ.* 

* Galat. vi. 14. 

292 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

This seems to you a paradox; light evolved from 
darkness, and glory from shame. Let me remind 
you that the christian religion is full of such para- 
doxes, and that we belong to an all-powerful God, 
who has given life to us by His death; who has 
healed us by His wounds, and who makes us rich 
by His poverty. I cannot, however, explain the 
difficulty to you better than by quoting the words 
of our Blessed Father in one of his letters. He 
says: ‘* In this alone lies our glory, that our divine 
Saviour died for us, the Master for His slaves, the 
just for the unjust.” 


Blessed Francis advised his penitents to avoid 
above all things, excessive eagerness, which, in his 
view, is the mortal foe of true devotion. He says: 
“It is far better to do a few things well than to 
undertake many good works and leave them half 

This was the mistake of the man in the Gospel 
who began to build and was not able to finish be- 
cause he had not counted the cost beforehand. There 
are some who think they are never doing well unless 
they are doing much. They are like the Pharisees 
who considered the perfection of prayer to consist 
inits length. Our Lord reproves them for this and 
much more for devouring widows’ houses with their 
long prayers. In one of his Conferences the 
Saint speaks thus: “It is not by the multiplicity 
of things we do that we acquire perfection, but by 
the perfection and purity of intention with which 
we do them.” 

And this is what he says on the subject in his 

Against over-eagerness 293 

Theotimus: ‘‘ To do few actions but with great 
purity of intention and with a firm will to please 
God, is to do excellently. Such greatly sanctify us. 
Some men eat much, and yet are ever lean, thin, and 
delicate, because their digestive power is not good; 
there are others who eat little, and yet are always in 
excellent health and vigorous, because their stomach 
is good. Even so, there are some souls that do 
many good works and yet increase but little in 
charity, because they do those good works either 
coldly and negligently, or have undertaken them 
rather from natural instinct and inclination than 
because God so willed and with heaven-given fer- 
vour. On the contrary, others there are who get 
through little work, but do it with so holy a will 
and inclination, that they make a wonderful 
advancement in charity; they have little talent, but 
they husband it so faithfully that the Lord largely 
rewards them for it.’’* 


Our Blessed Father always insisted on the neces- 
sity of discretion as well as charity in our devotion, 
and warned us against that want of self-restraint and 
calmness, which he called eagerness. This, he 
said, is, indeed, the remora of true devotion, and 
its worst enemy, the more so because it decks itself 
in the livery of devotion, in order more easily to 
entrap the unwary and to make them mistake zeal 
without knowledge for genuine fervour. 

He was very fond of that saying of an ancient 
Emperor: ‘‘ Make haste slowly,” and of another: 
‘“ Soon enough, if well enough.’’ He would rather 
have a little done thoroughly well, than a great deal 

"Lowe of Ged. B. mii., c. 7. 

294 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

undertaken with over-eagerness. One of his 
favourite maxims was “‘ Little and good.” In order 
to persuade us that he was right, he used to warn 
us against thinking that perfection depends on the 
number of our good works, exterior or interior. 
When asked what then became of that insatiable 
love of which the masters of the spiritual life speak, 
that love which never thinks that it has reached the 
goal, but is always pressing on farther and farther, 
spanning the whole extent of heaven with giant 

strides, he answered: ‘‘ The tree of that love 
must grow at the roots, rather than by the 
branches.’’ He explained his meaning thus: To 

grow by the branches is to wish to perform a great 
number of good works, of which many are imper- 
fect, others superfluous like the useless leaves which 
overload the vine, and have to be nipped off before 
the grapes can grow to any proper size. On the 
other hand we grow at the roots when we do only a 
few good works, but those few most perfectly, that 
is to say, with a great love of God, in which all the 
perfection of the christian consists. It is to this 
that the Apostle exhorts us when he bids us be 
rooted and grounded in charity if we would com- 
prehend the surpassing charity of the knowledge of 
Jesus Christ. True devotion, he used to say, should 
be gentle, tranquil, and discreet, whereas eagerness 
is indiscreet, tempestuous, and turbulent. 
Especially he found fault with the eagerness 
which attempts to do several things at once. He 
said it was like trying to thread more than one 
needle at a time. One of his favourite mottos 
was: ‘‘ Sufficient to the day is the labour thereof.” 
When he was reproached, as he sometimes was, 

Upon liberty of Spirit 295 

with bestowing such earnest and undivided atten- 
tion on the most trivial concerns of the people who 
came to him for sympathy and advice, he answered : 
‘‘ These troubles appear great to them, and, there- 
fore, they must be consoled, as if they really were 
so. God knows, too, that I do not want any great 
employment. [Itis perfectly indifferent to me what 
my occupation is so long as it is a serving of Him. 
To do these small works is all that is, at the time 
being, asked of me. Is not doing the will of Goda 
work great enough for anyone? We turn little 
actions into great ones when we perform them with 
a supreme desire to please God, who measures our 
Services, not by the excellence of the work we do, 
but by the love which accompanies it, and that love 
by its purity, and that purity by the singleness of 
its intention.” 


He was a great enemy to every sort of spiritual 
restriction and constraint, and was fond of quoting 
the words of St. Paul: Where the spirit of God 
is, there is liberty.* And again: You are 
redeemed with a great price, do not make your- 
selves slaves again.t| He had advised a lady of 
rank to work with her own hands, in order to avoid 
sloth, and, as she was well to do, he suggested to her 
to devote her manual labour to the adornment of 
altars or to the service of the poor, following the 
advice of the Apostle, who counsels us to labour 
with our hands to provide for the wants of the 
needy. This lady, who always followed his 
suggestions to the very letter as if they were 

"IT." Ger. iti. 17. TCor. wii. 28 

296 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

commands, having done some little piece of 
work for herself, felt-a scruple about the matter, as 
though she had failed in the exact obedience which 
she had resolved to yield, not only to the commands 
of the holy Prelate, but even to his opinions. She 
therefore, asked him if she ought to give in alms 
exactly what a piece of work she had done for herself 
was worth. Moreover, having been advised to fast 
on Fridays she wished, she said, in order to gain 
more merit to make a vow that she would always 
practise this mortification. 

Here is his reply: ‘‘ I approve of your Friday 
fasts, but not that you should make any vow to keep 
them, nor that you should tie yourself down tightly 
in such matters. Still more do I approve of your 
working with your hands, spinning and so forth, at 
times when nothing greater or more important 
claims your attention, and that what you make 
should be destined either for the altar or for the 
poor. I should not, however, like you to keep to 
this so strictly, that if it should happen that you do 
something for yourself or for your family you 
should feel obliged to give the poor the value of 
your work. For, holy liberty and freedom must 
reign, and we must have no other law than love, 
which, when it bids us to do some kind of work for 
our own family or friends, must not be looked upon 
as if it had led us todo wrong. Still less does it 
require us to make amends, as you wished to do. 
seeing that whatever it invites us to take in hand, 
whether for the rich or for the poor, is equally pleas- 
ing to our Lord.’ What do you think of this 
doctrine, you who go by rule and measure in 
valuing an act of virtue? Is liberality displayed 

Upon nature and grace 297 

towards the rich, in your opinion, worth as much as 
alms given to the poor? See now, this holy Bishop 
follows a very different rule, and measuring the one 
action and the other by the golden standard of 
charity, esteems them as equal, provided both be 
done with equal charity. 


In certain minds there seems always to lurk some 
remains of Pelagianism, a hydra from which though 
bruised and crushed by the Church—the pillar and 
bulwark of the Truth—new heads are ever spring- 
ing forth. 

Many, as I am willing to believe, from lack of 
consideration, ascribe too much to nature, and tou 
little to grace, making too great capital of the matter 
of moral virtues, and too little of the manner in 
which they are practised. These people forget that 
in our works God does not regard how much we do, 
but with how much love we do it, non quantum, 
sed ex quanto, in the language of the schools. 

On this subject our Blessed Father gives the fol- 
lowing excellent advice to a pious person who, 
because she had to devote the greater part of her 
time to household affairs and to mix a good deal in 
society was discouraged, and thought it almost 
impossible for her to lead a devout life. 

“ Do not,” he says, “* look at all at the substance 
of the things which you do, but rather, poor though 
they be, at the honour by which they are ennobled, 
that of being willed by God, ordered by His Provi- 
dence, and arranged by His wisdom, in a word, that 
of being pleasing to God. And if they please Him, 
whom can they reasonably offend? Strive, my 

298 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

dearest daughter, to become every day more pure in 

This purity of heart consists in setting on all 
things their true value, and in weighing them in the 
balance of the sanctuary, which balance is only 
another name for the will of God.” In the same 
way in his Theotimus he teaches that acts of the 
lesser virtues are often more pleasing to God, and 
consequently more meritorious, because done with 
great love, than the most splendid virtues when 
practised with less of heavenly charity. Charity is 
the pure gold which makes us rich in immortal 


Blessed Francis was not at all fond of too much 
self-introspection, or of the habit of turning an un- 
important matter over and over a hundred times in 
the mind. He called this pernicious hair-splitting ; 
or, with the Psalmist: ‘‘ Spinning spiders’ webs.’’* 
People given to it he used to say are like the silk- 
worm, which imprisons and entangles itself in its 
own cocoon. In his twelfth Conference he speaks 
further on this subject. 

‘“ The soul,” he says, “f which is wholly bent on 
pleasing its divine Lover, has neither desire nor 
leisure to fall back upon itself. It presses on con- 
tinually (or should do so) along the one straight 
patk which has that love for its aim, not allowing 
itselt to waste its powers in continual self-inspec- 
tion for the purpose of seeing what it is doing or if 
itis satisfied. Alas! our own satisfactions and con- 
solations do not satisfy God, they only feed that 

*Cf. Ps. Whexxik. to, 

Upon interior reformation 299 

miserable love and care of ourselves which is quite 
apart from God and the thought of Him.”’ 

A great deal of time is wasted in these useless con- 
siderations which would be far better employed in 
doing good works. 

By over considering whether we do right, we may 
actually do wrong. 

St. Anthony was once asked how we might know 
if we prayed properly. ‘‘ By not knowing itat all,” 
he answered. He certainly prays well who is so 
taken up with God that he does not know he is 
praying. The traveller who is always counting his 
steps will not make much headway. 


Our Blessed Father used to say that, generally 
speaking, grace worked as nature, and not as art, 
does. Art only reproduces what appears outwardly 
as in painting and sculpture, but nature begins her 
work from within, so that in a living creature the 
internal organs are formed before the skin, whence 
the saying that the heart is the first living part of 

When, therefore, he wished to lead souls on from 
a worldly to a devout life, he did not at first suggest 
changes in the exterior, in the dressing of the hair, 
in the fashion of garments, and so on. No, he 
spoke only to the heart, and of the heart, knowing 
that when once that stronghold is gained, nothing 
else can resist. 

“ When a house is on fire, said he, see how all 
the furniture is thrown out of the window! So is 
it when the heart is possessed by true love of God, 
all that is not of God seems then to it of no moment 

300 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

at all. If a man, says the Canticle of Canticles 
give all his riches for love he will think that he has 
done nothing.’’* 

I will give you a trifling illustration of this teach- 
ing which may be useful to you. A lady of high 
rank, having placed herself under the direction of 
the holy Prelate, became more and more assiduous 
in attending the services of the Church, spending 
much time in prayer and meditation, and, in what 
leisure was left her from her household cares, visit- 
ing the sick and poor. Her friends and acquaint- 
ances, however, observed with surprise that she 
made no change at all in external matters, that her 
dress was as rich as ever, and that she laid aside 
none of her magnificent ornaments. 

This so scandalized them that they began to mur- 
mur openly, not only against her, but also against 
her director. They even went so far as to accuse 
her of hypocrisy, forgetting that a hypocrite always 
tries to appear better in the eyes of others than he 
really is, whereas she, in spite of interior amend- 
ment, remained quite unchanged in her exterior. 

The truth was that she did not in the least care 
for her ornaments, but as it was her husband’s will 
that she should dress as before, she followed the 
example of Esther, who, though she detested all 
vain pomp and show, to please Assuerus, decked 
herself out with magnificence. 

On one occasion some busybody told our Blessed 
Father that this lady, devout though she was, had 
not even given up wearing ear-rings, and expressed 
great surprise that he who was so good a confessor 
had not advised her to have done with the like 

* Cant viii. 7. 

His vision of the Most Holy Trinity 301 

vanities. To allthis Francis replied with his accus- 
tomed gentleness, and with a touch of humour: “I 
assure you, I do not know that she has got ears, 
much less ear-rings in them. She always comes to 
confession with her head so completely enveloped 
ina great hood or scarf that I cannot see so much as 
its shape. Then, too, let us remember that the 
saintly Rebecca of old, who was quite as virtuous as 
this lady, lost nothing of her sanctity by wearing 
the ear-rings which Eleazer presented to her as the 
gift of his master Isaac!” 

Thus did our Blessed Father deal with matters 
which are a stumbling-block to the weak and foolish, 
showing how true it is that all things work together 
for good to those who are good, and that to the pure 
all things are pure. 


All christians ought to be not only devout but 
absolutely devoted to the most Blessed Trinity. It 
is the most august and fundamental of all our mys- 
teries; it is that to which we are consecrated by our 
entrance into the holy Church, for we are baptized 
in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the 
Holy Ghost. 

But you, my sisters, ought in an especial manner 
to be devoted to this great and ineffable mystery, 
remembering the wonderful vision which our 
Blessed Father, your founder, had on the day of his 
episcopal consecration. In that sublime vision 
Almighty God showed him most clearly and intel- 
ligibly that the three adorable Persons of the most 
Holy Trinity were operating in his soul, producing 
there special graces which were to aid him in his 

302 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

pastora! office, at the very moment that the three 
Bishops who were consecrating him, blessed him, 
and performed all the holy ceremonies which ren- 
der this action so great and so solemn. Thence- 
forth he always regarded himself as consecrated to 
the ever-Blessed Trinity and as a vessel of honour 
and sanctification. 

Then, too, in the year 1610, he both founded and 
opened your Institute on the day dedicated by the 
Church to the memory and adoration of that incom- 
prehensible mystery. Trinity Sunday that year 
happening to fall on the Feast of St. Claude, he gave 
you that saint as your special intercessor with the 
most Holy Trinity. 

Again, you Congregation began with three mem- 
bers only, and this of set purpose, in order to hon- 
our the Blessed Trinity as well as to accomplish 
what is written in the Gospel, that when two or 
three are gathered together in the name, that is to 
say, for the glory of God, He will be in the midst 
of them, and will animate and govern them by His 
spirit; the spirit of love, unity, and concord, which 
makes us keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of 
peace, and renders us one through love, as the 
Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one only, 
in nature, essence, and substance. It is this peace 
of God, passing all understanding, which has up to 
the present time kept all the convents of your Order 
in unity. Woe to him who shall break down this 
defence and rampart! May the ever-Blessed 
Trinity avert this misery, and both regard and pre- 
serve you always, as adopted daughters of the 
Father, adopted sisters of the Son, and spouses of 
the Holy Ghost! Amen. 

His devotion to our Blessed Lady 308 


Astrologers, as you know, make a great point of 
observing what star is rising on the horizon at the 
moment of a person’s birth. They call it the ascen- 
dant, and it forms, as it were, the apex of their horo- 
scope. Well, thisisanidle fancy, but we may draw 
from it a useful suggestion. It would be good for 
us to notice what star was in the ascendant in the 
heavens,, that is to say, what blessed Saint’s feast 
day illumined the heaven of the Church militant at 
the moment of our birth. I cannot tell you how 
much this knowledge has helped many a soul. 

Ah! how bright and glorious an ascendant our 
Blessed Father had! seeing that he was born under 
the very sign and protection of the Mother of God, 
on one of the days in the Octave of her Assumption, 
August 21st, 1567. 

No wonder that he always had a special] devotion 
to her and showed it in every possible way ; among 
others, in giving her name to many of the confra- 
ternities and congregations established by him in 
the Church. No wonder either that he had so great 
a love of purity, and that under the protection, and 
with the assistance of the Queen of Virgins, he 
should have consecrated himself to God in holy 
virginity and continence. 

You know that it was on the Feast of the Immacu- 
late Conception that he received episcopal consecra- 
tion, and at the same time that inward unction which 
we learn so much of from the history of his life. 

He also dedicated his Theotimus* to the Queen 

*The Treatise on the Love of God. 

304 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

of Sovereign Charity, and preached continually 
and with extraordinary sweetness and fervour upon 
the perfections and greatness of that divine 

Finally, my dear sisters, there was nothing that 
he recommended so much to his spiritual children 
as this devotion to the Blessed Virgin. You, 
indeed, more than all others, ought to bear witness 
to this, seeing that he made you daughters of holy 
Mary, under the title of the Visitation, marked 
thereby to distinguish you from so many other con- 
gregations consecrated to the honour and service of 
God under the title of Our Lady. 

His devotion to our Blessed Lady was, indeed, 
as might have been expected from one so single- 
minded and sincere as he, eminently practical. 
From his earliest youth he sought her protection and 
aid in all difficulties and temptations. When he 
was pursuing his studies while at college in Paris, 
the evil spirit was permitted by God to insinuate 
into his mind the terrible idea that he was one of 
the number of the damned. This delusion took 
such possession of his soul that he lost his appetite, 
was unable to sleep, and day by day grew more and 
more wasted and languid. His tutor and director 
noticing how his health was affected and how pale, 
listless, and joyless he had become, often questioned 
him as to the cause of his dejection and evident 
suffering, but his tormentor who had filled his mind 
with this delusion, being what is called a dumb 
devil, the poor youth could give no explanation. 

For one whole month he suffered this mental tor- 
ture, this agony of soul. He had lost all the sweet- 
ness of divine love, but not, happily, his fidelity to 

His devotion to our Blessed Lady 305 

it. He looked back with bitter tears to the happy 
time when he was, as it were, inebriated with that 
sweetness, nor did any ray of hope illumine the 
darkness of that night of despair. 

At last, led by a divine inspiration, he entered a 
church to pray that this agony might pass. 

On his knees before a statue of the Blessed Vir- 
gin he implored the assistance of the Mother of 
Mercy with tears and sighs, and the most fervent 

He ended by reciting the Memorare, that devout 
prayer attributed to St. Augustine or St. Bernard, 
and which was such a favourite with our Blessed 
Father and taught by him to all his penitents. 

I may here mention that it was from his lips 
that I first learnt that prayer, that I wrote it down 
in the beginning of my breviary, and have made 
constant use of it in all my necessities. 

But, to return to my story. No sooner had he 
finished this appeal to the Mother of Mercy than he 
began to experience the power of her intercession. 
He seemed to hear the voice of God within him say- 
ing: “ I am thy salvation: Oh! man of little faith, 
wherefore dost thou doubt? Thou art mine and I 
will save thee; have confidence; I am He who has 
overcome the world.” 

Then, ina moment, the devil departed from him; 
the delusions with which that wicked one had filled 
his mind vanished; joy and consolation took their 
place; where darkness had reigned light assumed 
the empire, and Francis felt he could never suffi- 
ciently thank God for this deliverance. 

Can you wonder that after such a battle and such 
a victory won through the intercession of the Mother 


306 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

of God he always advised those who were under- 
going temptation to have recourse to her powerful 
aid? She is indeed terrible—to our foes—as an 
army in battle array, and a tower of strength 
against the face of our enemies; and what marvel 
seeing that it is she who has crushed the serpent’s 
head ? 


With regard to our Blessed Father’s explanation 
of his special devotion to the Holy Winding Sheet, 
as connected with circumstances preceding his birth, 
I may here say a few words. 

He was born, as you know, on the 21st of August, 
1567. His mother was then very young, not quite 
fifteen, and frail and delicate in health. It hap- 
pened that at that very time the Holy Winding 
Sheet, then in the Chapel of Chambery, was, by 
command of His Highness of Savoy, and at the 
request of the Princess Anne d’Este, wife, by her 
second marriage, of James of Savoy, Duke of 
Nemours and Prince of Geneva, brought to Annecy. 
Charles, Cardinal of Lorraine, and Louis, Cardinal 
of Guise, were at the time at Annecy, where the 
sacred relic was displayed with great solemnity and 
exposed to the veneration of the multitudes who 
flocked to the place from all parts. 

Among these crowds came the father and mother 
of Blessed Francis, and we may well believe that 
God made use of this holy relic to imprint upon both 
the mother and the unborn child some special 
influence of grace. 

There is another winding sheet at Besancon (for 

Eis Devotion to the Holy Winding, dc. 307 

our Lord was buried in two, Holy Scripture itself 
suggesting this by the use of the word linteamina,* 
linen cloths), that city being the metropolis of the 
ecclesiastical province, in which the Bishopric of 
Belley is situated. 

One day when our Blessed Father was passing 
by the place the authorities had the relic exposed in 
his honour, and begged him to preach upon the sub- 
ject. He did so, with tears of emotion and such a 
torrent of vehement eloquence, as went straight to 
the hearts of all who listened to him. 

In his own diocese he took care to have the feast 
of the Holy Winding Sheet kept in all the churches. 
He generally himself preached on that day, and 
always with much feeling and devotion. 

He had a most special devotion to the Holy 
Winding Sheet, as it is to be seen at Turin. He 
had it copied or represented in all sorts of different 
ways, or, I should rather say, by all sorts of different 
arts; in embroidery, in oil painting, in copper- 
plate, in coloured engraving, in miniature, in demi- 
relief, in etching. He had it in his chamber, his 
chapel, his oratory, his study, his refectory; in a 
word, everywhere. 

On one occasion I asked him the reason of this. 
He answered: “‘ It is the great treasure of the House 
of Savoy, the defence of the country; it is our great 
relic; more than this, it is the miraculous picture of 
the sufferings of Jesus Christ, traced with His own 
blood. And then, too, I have a special reason for 
my devotion to this holy relic, seeing that before I 
was born my mother dedicated me to our Lord, 
while contemplating this sacred standard of salva- 

*Luke xxiv. 12. 

308 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

It is said that he who carries the standard into 
battle, rather than surrender it to the enemy, should 
wrap its folds round his body and glory in so dying. 
Ah! What a happiness it would be if we could thus 
fold round about us the Holy Winding Sheet, 
buried with Jesus Christ for love of Him, in whom 
we are buried by baptism.”’ 

Uron MERIT. 

Every good work can, as you know, have four 
qualities: it can be meritorious, satisfactory, con- 
solatory, or impetratory. 

In order to have the two first qualities it must be 
performed when we are in a state of grace; that is to 
say, through the motive of charity, or, at least, in 

But the two last it can have, although imperfectly, 
without charity; for how many sinners there are 
who feel consolation in doing works which are 
morally good, and how many who in praying impe- 
trate graces and favours from the mercy of God. 

Between the two first qualities of good works 
there is this difference, that the first abides with and 
belongs wholly and entirely to the person who per- 
forms the work, and cannot be communicated; that 
power of communication being reserved solely for 
the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord, which do not 
stop short, as it were, and end in Him, but can be, 
and, in fact, are, communicated to us. Neither the 
saints in heaven nor those on earth have power to 
communicate to us one tittle of their merits; not 
the former, because in glory they are rewarded far 
beyond their deserving; not the latter, because they 
have not yet reached the goal, and whatever sanc- 

Upon Good Will, &e. 309 

tity they may possess, they may, through sin, fall 
away from it, and all have need of the grace and 
mercy of God to keep them from so falling. 

The second quality, however, is communicable, 
because we can share in the necessities of one 
another, and can make satisfaction one for another ; 
Spiritual riches being no less communicable than 
temporal ones, and the abundance of some being 
able to relieve the starvation of others. Hear what 
our Blessed Father says on this subject in his 
eighteenth Conference: ‘‘ We must never think that 
by going to Holy Communion for others, or by 
praying for them, we lose anything. We need not 
fear that by offering to God this communion or 
prayer in satisfaction for the sins of others we shall 
not make spiritual profit for ourselves. The merit 
of the communion and of the prayer will remain 
with us, for we cannot merit grace for one another ; 
itis our Lord alone who can do that. We can beg 
for graces for others, but we can never merit 


Good will being of so great importance, you ask 
me of what use it is, if it does not manifest itself 
by its works. 

And St. Gregory tells us that where there are no 
works there can be no love at all, or at least none 
that is sincere. Our Blessed Father will give the 
best possible answer to your question. These are 
his words: 

‘The angel who proclaimed the birth of our 
infant Saviour sang glory to God, announcing that 
he published joy, peace, and happiness to men of 

310 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

good will. This was done in order that no one 
might be ignorant that to receive this Child all that 
is needed is to be of good will, even though as yet 
cne may have effected nothing of good, for Christ 
comes to bless all good wills, and, little by little, 
He will render them fruitful and of good effect, pro- 
vided we allow Him to govern them. 

With regard to good desires, it is, indeed, mar- 
vellous that they should so often come to nothing, 
and that such magnificent blossoms should produce 
so little fruit. 

He gives, however, a reason for this, which 
pleases me very much. 

God knows, he says, why He permits so many 
good desires to require such length of time and such 
severe effort to bring them to action, nay, more 
than this, why sometimes they are never actuated 
at all. 

Yet if there were no other profit from them than 
that resulting from the mortification of a soul which 
loves God, that would be much. 

In fact, we must not desire evil things at all; good 
things we must desire only in moderation; but 
desire supremely, and in a limitless degree, that one 
only divine Good, God Himself. 


A certain person of my acquaintance! having 
learnt on good authority that Blessed Francis had 
in his early youth made a vow to say his rosary 

1Undoubtedly M. Camus himself. 

Note.—It is considered by critics that M. Camus puts 
much of his own into the mouth of St. Francis in this 
section. —[ Ed. ] 

Against the making of rash vows 311 

every day, wished to imitate him in this work of 
piety, and yet did not like to make the vow without 
first consulting him. 

He received the answer: ‘‘ Beware of doing so.” 
My friend replying: ‘‘ Why do you refuse to others 
the advice which you took for yourself in your 
youth?’’ Blessed Francis continued: ‘‘ The very 
word youth decides the question, because I made 
the vow at that time with less reflection, but now 
that I am older I say to you, Do not do it. Ido not 
tell you not to say your rosary; on the contrary, 
I advise you as earnestly as I can, and even conjure 
you not to allow a single day to pass without recit- 
ing that prayer, which is most pleasing to God, and 
to the Blessed Virgin. But do it from a firm and 
fixed purpose, rather than from a vow, so that if 
you should happen to omit it either from weariness 
or forgetfulness, or any other circumstance, you 
may not be perplexed by scruples, and run the risk 
of offending God. For it is not enough to vow, 
we must also pay our vow, and that under pain of 
sin, which is no small matter. I assure you that 
this vow has often been a hindrance to me, and 
many a time I have been on the point of asking to 
be dispensed, and set free from it, or at least of 
having it changed into some other work of equal 
worth, which might interfere less with the discharge 
of my duties.” 

“ But,’’ rejoined this person, ‘‘is not what is 
done by vow more meritorious than what is done 
only from a firm and settled purpose? ° ‘‘I sus- 
pected that was it,” replied Blessed Francis; ‘‘ in 
that case who do you wish should profit by what 
you do?” “A fine question,” cried the other, 

312 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

“my neighbour, do you think? No, certainly, 
I want to gain it for myself.’ ‘‘ Then there is 
nothing more to be said,” replied Blessed Francis. 
“I see I have been making a mistake. I imagined, 
of course, that you wished to make your vow to 
God, for God, and for His sake, and so by your vow 
to merit or gain something for God. What! Are 
we to talk of our merits and graces as if He needed 
them, and were not Himself absolute merit and infi- 
nite goodness and perfection? ” 

Our Blessed Father loved to see this bird beating 
its wings against the bars of its cage. At last to 
let him fly, he said: ,‘ But what then is merit, but 
a work pleasing to God, and a work done in His 
grace, and by His help, and for His love—a work 
which He rewards with increase of graceand glory ?’ 
‘““ Certainly,” said the other, ‘‘ that is how I, too, 
understood it.’’ ‘‘ Well, then,” replied he, “‘ if 
you understand it thus, why do you contend against 
your understanding and your conscience? Are we 
not meriting for God, when we do a good work in a 
state of grace and for the love of God? And ought 
not the love of God which seeks nothing but His 
interests, that is to say, His glory, to be the chief 
end and final aim of all our good works, rather than 
the reward we thereby merit, which is merely an 
accessory ? ” 

‘* And of what use to God are the merits and good 
works of men?” continued the other. ‘‘ For one 
thing,” replied he, ‘‘ God thereby saves you from 
taking a false step. You are standing on the brink 
of a precipice, and you have your eyes shut. Let 
me give you a helping hand.” 

“In very truth, no good works of ours, though 

Against the making of rash vows 818 

done ina state of grace and for the love of God, can 
increase His interior and essential glory. The 
reason is that this glory, being God Himself and 
consequently infinite, can neither be increased by 
our good actions nor diminished by our sins; and 
it is in this sense that David says that God is God 
and has no need of our goods.* It is not thus, 
however, with the exterior glory which is rendered 
to Him by creatures, and for the obtaining of which 
He drew them forth out of nothingness into exist- 
ence. This is finite, by reason of its subject, God’s 
creature, and therefore can be increased by our 
good works done in and for the love of God, or, 
on the other hand, diminished by our evil actions, 
by which we dishonour God, and rob Him of His 
glory, though only of glory which is exterior and 
outside of the divine nature. 

Now that we do increase the exterior glory of 
God by our good works, done as I have said, is 
evident from the testimony of the Apostle, when he 
calls the man who is purified from sin by justifying 
grace: A vessel unto honour sanctified and profit- 
able to the Lord prepared unto every good work.t 

Indeed, it is the very fact that a work done in 
grace increases the exterior glory of God, which 
makes it meritorious, His goodness being pledged 
by His promise to glorify those who glorify Him, 
and to give the crown of justice to those who fight 
the good fight, and who do, or endure, anything 
for the glory of His name. This is why I said that 
we must merit for God, that is to say, we should 
refer our actions to the glory of God, and act out 
of love for Him. So we shall merit eternal life, 

Psal. AV: 2. t2 Tim. Ti” bn 

314 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

provided always we be free from mortal sin, since 
God is not pledged to give the glories of heaven to 
any but those who shall labour in His grace. 

If, on the other hand, we wish to merit for our- 
selves, that is to say, if we positively intend that 
the whole aim of our labour be the reward of grace, 
or glory, which we hope for: and if we do not, in 
performing our good works seek first and chiefly 
the glory of God; then we really merit nothing for 
ourselves, since we do nothing for God. The 
reason of this is that there is so close a relationship 
between merit and reward (the two Latin names for 
them, meritum and merces, having the same root 
and meaning), that one cannot exist without the 
other any more than a mountain without a valley, 
or paternity without sonship. 

You see now that in the theory you have unwit- 
tingly adopted you entirely destroy the nature of 
true merit, and are in danger of being shipwrecked 
on the same rock as those heretics of our day who 
hold that good works are unprofitable for salvation. 
I am convinced, as you may well believe, that you 
are as far from wishing to run the risk with them 
as you are from sharing their belief. 

Remember this, that in order to do a good work 
in true charity you must not make your own interest 
your ultimate aim, but God’s interest, which is 
nothing else but His exterior glory. The more, 
too, that you think of God’s interest the more He 
will think of yours, and the less you trouble your- 
self about reward, the greater will your reward be 
in heaven, because pure love, never mercenary, 
looks only to the good of the beloved one, not to its 
own. This is the end and aim of the sacred teach- 

Against the making of rash vows 315 

ing that we must seek first the Kingdom of God, 
that is to say, His glory, knowing assuredly that 
in seeking this all good things will be added unto 

He who only wishes to merit for himself does 
nothing for God and merits nothing for himself : 
but, on the other hand, he who does everything for 
God and for His honour merits much for himself. 

In this game he who loses, wins; and he who 
thinks only of winning for himself, plays a losing 
game. His good works are, as it were, hollow, and 
weigh too lightly in the divine balance. He falls 
asleep on his pile of imaginary spiritual wealth, 
and awakening finds he has nothing in his hands. 
He has laboured for himself, not for God, and 
therefore receives his reward from himself and not 
from God. Like a moth, he singes his wings in 
the flame of a merit which is truly imaginary, no 
work being really meritorious except that which is 
done in a state of grace, and with God for its last 

‘ All this,” replied the person, ‘‘ does not at all 
satisfy me on the point which I brought forward, 
namely, as to whether work done by vow is not 
more meritorious than that which is done without 
it, seeing that to the action of the particular virtue 
which is vowed is added that of the virtue of reli- 
gion which is the vow.” 

“‘ Certainly,” replied our Blessed Father, ‘‘ as 
regards the question whether it is more meritorious 
to say the Rosary by vow rather than of one’s free 
choice, it is undoubtedly, as you say, adding one 
act of virtue to another to do so in discharge of one’s 
vow, for is not prayer the highest of all religious 


316 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

actions? Again, if I pray with devotion and fervour, 
am I not adding to prayer another religious action, 
which is devotion? If I offer to God this prayer, 
as incense, or a spiritual sacrifice, or as an obla- 
tion, are not sacrifice and oblation two religious 
actions? Moreover, if by this prayer I desire to 
praise God, is not divine praise a religious act? 
If in praying I adore God, is not adoration one 
also ? 

And if I pray thus with devotion, adoration, 
sacrifice, oblation, and praise, have we not here 
five acts of the virtue of religion added by me to 
the sixth, which is prayer? ” 

“ But,” rejoined the other, ‘“‘the vow is more 
than all that? “‘If,? replied Blessed Francis, 
‘“‘ you say that the act of making a vow is in itself 
more than all these six together, you must really 
bring me some proof of its being so.” 

“ I mean,” said the other, ‘‘ than each of these 
acts taken separately.” ‘* That,’’ returned our 
Blessed Father, ‘“‘ is not the opinion of the Angeli- 
cal Doctor,* who, when enumerating the eleven 
acts of religion, places the making a vow only in the 
eighth rank, with Seven preceding it, namely, 
prayer, devotion, adoration, sacrifice, oblation, the 
paying of tithes, and first-fruits; and three after 
it: the praise of God, the taking of lawful oaths, 
and the adjuring of creatures in God. 

It is not that the act of making a vow is not an 
excellent thing; but we have no right to set it above 
other virtues which surpass it in excellence, and 
other good works of greater worth. We must leave 
everything in its place, going neither against the 

*S. Thom. 2a, 22%, queest, xxill. art. vii. 

Against the making of rash vows 317 

order of reason nor against that of divine charity. 
A man who boasts too much of his noble birth 
provokes scrutiny into the genuineness of his claim 
and risks its being disallowed.” 

‘“All the same,’’ persisted this person, “I 
maintain that a good work done by vow is 
more meritorious than one done without it, 
charity, of course, being taken for granted.’’ 
“It is not enough,” replied Francis, ‘‘to take 
charity for granted. We must also suppose it 
to be greater in the man who does the action with a 
vow than in the one who does it without; for if he 
who says some particular prayer, because bound by 
vow, has less charity than he who says the same with- 
out being so bound, he, doubtless, has, and you will 
not deny it, less merit than the other, because merit 
is not in proportion to the vow made, but to the 
charity which accompanies it, and without which it 
has neither life nor value.” 

“* And supposing equal charity, vow, or no vow,” 
resumed the person, “ will not the action done by 
vow have greater merit than the other?”’ “It will 
only have the same eternal glory for its reward,” 
replied our Blessed Father, “‘ in so far as it has the 
same amount of charity, and thus each will receive 
the same reward of eternal life. 

But as regards accidental glory, supposing that 
there were a special halo for the vow which would 
add a fourth to the three of which schoolmen treat, 
or, if you wish, that there should be as many special 
and accidental halos of glory as there are kinds of 
virtue, they will be unequal in accidental glory. 

But then we should have to prove that this mul- 
tiplicity of halos, or accidentat glories, exists, in 

318 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

addition to the three of which the schoolmen speak. 
This I would ask you now to do, though I am doubt- 
ful as to the result.” 

‘‘ Of what then does it avail you,” said the other, 
‘“to have made that vow about which I have been 
consulting you?” 

“It renders me,” replied our Blessed Father, 
‘“more careful, diligent, and attentive in keeping 
my word to God, in binding myself closer to Him, 
in strengthening me to keep my promise (for I do 
not deny that there is something more stable in the 
vow than in mere purpose and resolution), in keep- 
ing myself from the sin I might incur, if I should 
failin what I have vowed, in stimulating me to do 
better, and to make use of this means to further my 
progress in the love of God.’’ ‘‘ You do not then 
pretend to merit more on account of it?’’ said the 
other. ‘‘I leave all that to God,” replied Francis. 
‘“ He knows the measure of grace which He gives, 
or wishes to give me. I desire no more, and only 
as much as it may please Him to bestow on me for 
His glory. Love is not eager to serve its own 
interests, it leaves the care of them to its Beloved, 
who will know how to reward those who love Him 
with a pure and disinterested love.” 

I close this subject with two extracts from the 
writings of our Blessed Father. In the first he says. 
“I do not like to hear people say, We must do 
this, or that, because there is more merit in it. There 
is more merit in saying, ‘We must do all for the 
glory of God.’ If we could serve God without 
merit—which cannot be done—we ought to wish to 
do so. It is to be feared that by always trying to 
discover what is most meritorious we may miss our 

His victory over the passions, dc. 319 

way, like hounds, which when the scent is crossed, 
easily lose it altogether.” 


I have been asked whether our Lord Jesus Christ 
had passions. I cannot do better than answer in 
the exact words of our Blessed Father, taken from 
his Theotimus. He says: 

‘“ Jesus Christ feared, desired, grieved, and 
rejoiced. He even wept, grew pale, trembled, and 
sweated blood, although in Him these effects were 
not caused by passions like to ours. Therefore 
the great St. Jerome, and, following his example, 
the Schools of Theology, out of reverence for the 
divine Person in whom they existed, do not dare 
to give the name of passions to them, but call them 
reverently pro-passions, to show that in our Lord‘ 
these sensible emotions, though not passions, took 
the place of passions. Moreover, He suffered 
nothing whatever on account of them, excepting 
what seemed good to Him, governing and con- 
trolling them at His will. This, we who are 
sinners do not do, for we suffer and groan under 
these disorderly emotions, which, against our will, 
and to the great prejudice of our spiritual peace 
and welfare, disturb our souls.’’* 


Blessed Francis candidly owned that the two 
passions which it cost him the most to conquer 
were “‘love of creatures and’anger.’’ The former 

*Book I. chap. 3. 

320 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

he overcame by skill, the latter by violence, or as 
he himself was wont to say, ‘“‘ by taking hold of 
his heart with both hands.” 

The strategy by which he conquered love of 
creatures was this. He gave his affections an alto- 
gether new object to feed upon and to live for, an 
object absolutely pure and holy, the Creator. The 
soul, we know, cannot live without love, therefore 
all depends on providing it with an object worthy 
of its love. Our will is like our love. ‘‘ We be- 
come earthly,” says St. Augustine, ‘“‘ if we love the 
earth, but heavenly if we love heaven. Nay more, 
if we love God, we actually, by participation, 
become godlike. Osee, speaking of idolaters, says: 
They became abominable as those things were 
which they loved.*’’ All our Saint’s writings 
breathe love, but a love so holy, pure, and beautiful 
as to justify itself in every expression of it:—Pure 
words. . . . justified in themselves. ... sweeter 
than honey and the honeycomb. 

As regards the passion of anger, which was very 
strong in him, he fought against it, face to face, 
with such persevering force and success that meek- 
ness and gentleness are considered his chief char- 


One day, at a time when I was writing a treatise 
on the subject of the human passions—which 
treatise was afterwards published among my 
Miscellaneous Works—I went to him to be ~ 
enlightened upon several points. 

After having answered my questions, and satis- 

*Osee ix. 10, 

Upon our passions and emotions 321 

fied my mind, he asked me: ‘‘ And what will you 
say about the affections?” I must confess that 
this question surprised me, for though I am quite 
aware of the distinction between the reasonable and 
the sensitive appetite, I had no idea that there was 
such a difference between the passions and the 
affections, as he told me existed. I imagined that 
when the passions were governed by reason, they 
were Called affections, but he explained to me that 
this was not so at all. He said that our sensitive 
appetite was divided into two parts: the concu- 
piscent and the irascible. .. . 

The reasonable appetite is also divided, like the 
sensitive, into the concupiscent and the irascible, 
but it makes use of the mind as its instrument. 

The sensitive concupiscent appetite is again sub- 
divided into six passions: 1, love; 2, hate; 3, 
desire; 4, aversion; 5, joy; 6, sadness. The 
irascible comprises five passions: I, anger; 2, 
hope; 3, despair; 4, fear; 5, courage. 

The reasonable appetite, which is the will, has 
just as many affections, and they bear the same 
names. There is, however, this difference between 
the passions and the affections. We possess the 
passions in common with the irrational brute crea- 
tion, which, as we see, is moved by love, hate, 
desire, aversion, joy, sadness, anger, hope, despair, 
fear, and fearlessness, but without the faculty of 
reason to guide and regulate the impulse of the 

The carnal man, that is to say, he who allows 
himself to be carried away by the impetuosity of 
his feelings, is, says the Psalmist: compared to 
senseless beasts and 1s become like to them.* 

*Psal. xlviii. 13. 

322 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

He, however who makes use of his reason, directs 
his affections uprightly and well, employing them 
in the service of the reasonable appetite, only in as 
far as they are guided by the light and teaching of 
natural reason. As this, however, is faulty and 
liable to deceptions and illusions, mistakes are 
often made which are called by philosophers dis- 
orders of mind. 

But when the regenerate, that is to say, the 
christian who possesses both grace and charity, 
makes use of the passions of his sensitive appetite, 
as well as of the affections of his reason, for the 
glory of God, and for the love of Him alone, this 
does not happen. Then he loves what he ought 
to love, he hates what he ought to hate, he desires 
what God wills that he should desire, he flies from 
what displeases God, he is saddened by offences 
done against God, he rejoices and takes delight in 
the things which are pleasing to God. Then his 
zeal fills him with anger and indignation against 
all that detracts from the honour due to God; he 
hopes in God and not in the creature, he fears 
nothing save to offend God, he is fearless in God’s 
service. Thus, the Psalmist, a man after God’s 
own heart, was able to say that his flesh, that is, 
the passions seated in his senses, and his heart, 
namely, the affections rooted in his mind, rejoiced 
in the living God.* 

The winds, which, as some of the ancients held, 
come forth from the caverns and hollows of the 
earth, produce two very different effects upon the 
sea. Without winds we cannot sail, and yet 
through them tempests and shipwrecks happen. 

*Psal. Ixxxtii. 3. 

How he came to write his Philothea 3238 

The passions and affections shut up tn the two 
caverns of the concupiscent and the irascible 
appetite are so many inward impulses which urge 
us on to evil if they are rebellious, disorderly, and 
irregular, but if directed by reason and charity, lead 
us into the haven of rest, the port of life eternal. 

This is what our Blessed Father taught me, and 
if you desire any more information on the subject 
you will find it in his Treatise on the Love of 
God.* His words did indeed open my eyes! They 
were of the greatest assistance to me in writing the 
book I alluded to. 


There is something remarkable about the origin 
of this book, An Introduction to the Devout Life, 
addressed by him to Philothea, that is, to every 
soul which desires to love and serve God, and 
especially to persons living in the world. One 
peculiarity about it is that it was composed two 
years before its author had thought of writing any 
book at all. He says on this subject in his pre- 

““Tt was by no choice or desire of mine that this 
Introduction saw the light. Some time ago, a 
soul’ richly endowed with honourable and virtuous 
qualities, having received from God the grace to 
aspire to the devout life, desired my special assist- 
ance in the matter. I, on my part, having had 
much to do with her in spiritual concerns, and 
having for a long time past observed in her a 

*Book I. chap. 5. 
1Madame de Charmoisy, née Louise Dutchatel. [Ed.] 

324 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

great aptitude for such a life, took great pains in 
instructing her. I not only led her through all 
the exercises suitable to her condition and aspira- 
tions, but I also gave her some written notes, to 
which she might refer when necessary. Later on 
she showed these to a learned and devout Religious 
man, who, considering that they might be of use 
to many, strongly urged me to publish them, 
which he easily persuaded me to do, because his 
friendship had great power over me, and because I 
valued his judgment very highly.” 

I am able to give some further details. This 
soul richly endowed with honourable and virtuous 
qualities, as our Blessed Father described her to 
be, was a lady from Normandy of good family, 
who had married a gentleman of note in Savoy. 
His estates were partly in the diocese of Geneva, 
where he mostly resided, and he was nearly related 
to our Blessed Father. The lady, who was of a 
most pious disposition, decided that she could not 
possibly choose a better guide in the devout life 
than our Saint, her Bishop, and her relative by 
marriage. i 

Blessed Francis instructed her carefully both by 
word of mouth and also by written lessons, which 
she not only kept and treasured up, but sorted 
and arranged according to their various subjects, 
so as to be able to find in a moment the counsel 
she wanted. 

For two years she went on steadily collecting 
and amassing these precious documents as one by 
one he wrote them for her. At the end of that 
time, owing to the disturbed state of the country, 
a great change came over her life. Her husband 

How he came to write his Philothea 325 

served his Prince, the Duke of Savoy, in the war 
in Piedmont, and was obliged to leave the manage- 
ment of all his affairs and of his property to his 
wife, who was as skilful in such matters as she 
was devout. | 

The business of a great lawsuit in which her 
husband was concerned obliged her to take up her 
residence for more than six months at Chambery, 
where the senate or parliament was held. 

During her stay in this place she took for her 
director Pére Jean Ferrier, the Rector of the Jesuit 
College, and confessor to our Blessed Father. In 
her difficulties she applied to this Father for advice, 
and he willingly gave it. 

Sometimes it agreed with what Blessed Francis 
had said to her on similar occasions, sometimes it 
differed. When it differed, in order to prove that 
she was not speaking at random, and that she had 
something stronger than her own memory to rely 
upon, she would show him some of the written 
memoranda of which I have spoken. 

The good Priest, who was deeply versed in all 
spiritual matters, found so much in them that was 
profitable and delightful, that on one occasion he 
asked her if she had many more of the same sort. 

“So many, Father,” she replied, ‘‘ that if they 
were arranged in proper order they would make a 
good-sized volume.” 

The Father at once expressed his wish to see 
them all, and after having slowly and thoughtfully 
perused them, begged as a further favour that he 
might have several copies made of them. 

This being readily granted, he distributed the 
said copies among the Fathers of the College, who 

326 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

fully appreciated the gift, and treasured it most 

When this lady returned to Geneva, the Father 
Rector wrote a letter by her to our Blessed Father, 
praising her many virtues and her business talents, 
and begging him to continue to guide and counsel 
a soul so rich in all christian graces and heavenly 
dispositions. He then went on to extol in the 
highest terms the written teaching with which he 
(Francis) had assisted her. Our Blessed Father 
read Père Ferrier’s first letter, he has told me, 
without giving a thought to the matter of his own 
writings. But when this was followed by letter 
upon letter urging and imploring him not to keep 
such a treasure buried, but to allow other souls to 
be enlightened and guided in the way of salvation 
by his teaching, our Blessed Father was puzzled. 
He wrote to Père Ferrier saying that his present 
charge was so onerous, and engrossing, that he had 
no leisure for writing, and moreover that he had 
no talent for it, and could not imagine why people 
wanted him to attempt to do so. Père Ferrier 
replied, saying that if his Lordship did not publish 
the excellent instructions which he had given in 
writing to this lady he would be keeping back 
truth unlawfully, depriving souls of great advan- 
tages, and God of great glory. Our Blessed 
Father, much surprised, showed the letter to the 
lady, begging her to explain it. She replied that 
Pére Ferrier had made the same request to her, 
entreating her to have the memoranda, given her for 
her private direction, published. 

“ What memoranda?’’ said Blessed Francis. 
“ Oh! Father,” replied the lady, ‘‘do you not re- 

How he came to write his Philothea 327 

member all those little written notes on various 
subjects which you gave me to help my memory ?”’ 
‘‘ And pray what could be done with those notes? ”’ 

he enquired. ‘‘ Possibly you might make a sort of 
Almanack out of them, a sentence for every day in 
the year.” ‘‘An Almanack!” cried the lady. 

“ Why, Father, do you know that there are enough 
of them to fill a big book! Little by little the pile 
has grown larger than you would think! Many 
feathers make a pound, and many strokes of the 
pen make a book. You had better see the papers, 
and judge for yourself. The Father Rector has 
had them copied, and they make a thick volume.” 
“ What!” cried Blessed Francis, “‘ has the good 
Father really had the patience to read through all 
these poor little compositions, put together for the 
use of an unenlightened woman! You have done 
us both a great honour, indeed, by giving the 
learned doctor such a trifle to amuse himself with, 
and by showing him these precious productions of 
mine! ”?” ‘‘ Yet he values them so much,” replied 
the lady, “‘ that he persists in assuring me that he 
has never come across any writings more useful, 
or more edifying; and he goes on to say that this 
is the general feeling of all the Fathers of his 
house, who are all eager to possess copies. If you 
refuse to take the matter in hand, they will them- 
selves see that this light is not left much longer 
under a bushel.’’ ‘* Really,” said our Blessed 
Father, ‘‘ it is amazing that people should want me 
to believe that I have written a book without mean- 
ing it. However, let us examine these precious 
pearls of which so much is thought.” 

The lady then brought to him all the bundles 

328 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

of notes which she had shown to Pére Ferrier. 
Our Blessed Father was astonished to see how 
many there were, and wondered at the care which 
the lady had taken to collect and preserve them. 
He asked to be allowed to look them through 
again, and begged Père Ferrier not to attempt to 
send to the press disconnected and detached 
fragments which he had never for a moment 
thought of publishing. He added, however, that 
if on examination he thought that what had been 
written for the consolation of one soul might prove 
useful to others, he would not fail to put them into 
good order, and to add what was necessary to make 
them acceptable to those who might take the 
trouble to read them. 

This he did, and the result was the Introduction,? 
which we are therefore justified in saying was com- 
posed two years before its author thought of 
writing it! 

The simplicity, beauty, and usefulness of this 
book is well known. It showed the possibility of 
living a holy life in any station, amid the tumult of 
worldly cares, the seductions of prosperity, or the 
temptations of poverty. It brought new light to 
devout souls, and encouragement to all, whether 
high or low, who were desirous of finding and 
following Jesus. 

But, alas! there is a reverse side to the picture. 
I mean the misrepresentations and calumnies which 
our Blessed Father had to endure from those who 
pretended that the principles on which the book 
was based were absurd, and that it inculcated a 

1The Saint added advice given by him to his mother and 
others. [Ed.] 

How he came to write his Philothea 329 

degree of devotion quite impracticable in ordinary 

I can hardly speak calmly about this matter, and 
so content myself with remarking that in spite of 
bitter opposition the book has already, in my own 
time, passed through thirty editions in French, and 
has been translated not only into Latin, but into 
Italian, Spanish, German, English, in short, into 
most European languages. 

In order that you may not think, however, that 
I have exaggerated in what I have said of the 
opposition which it excited, I will close the subject 
with our Blessed Father’s own calm and gentle 
words of lament. In his preface to the Treatise on 
the Love of God, he says: 

“ Three or four years afterwards I published the 
Introduction to a Devout Life upon the occasion, 
and in the manner which I have put down in the 
preface thereof: regarding which I have nothing to 
say to you, dear reader, save only that, though this 
little book has in general had a gracious and kind 
acceptance, yes, even amongst the gravest Prelates 
and Doctors of the Church, yet it has not escaped 
the rude censure of some who have not merely 
blamed me but bitterly and publicly attacked me, 
because I tell Philothea that dancing is an action 
indifferent in itself, and that for recreation’s sake 
One may make puns and jokes. Knowing the 
quality of these censors, I praise their intention, 
which I think was good. I should have desired 
them, however, to please to consider that the first 
proposition is drawn from the common and true 
doctrine of the most holy and learned divines; that 
I was writing for such as live in the world, and at 

330 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

court; that withal I carefully point out the ex- 
treme dangers which are found in dancing; and 
that as to the second proposition, it is not mine but 
St. Louis’, that admirable King, a Doctor worthy 
to be followed in the art of rightly conducting 
courtiers to a devout life. For, I believe, if they 
had weighed this, their charity and discretion 
would never have permitted their zeal, how 
vigorous, and austere soever, to arm their indigna- 
tion against me.” 


God said to Moses: Look, and make it (the 
tabernacle) according to the pattern that was shewn 
thee in the mount,* and he did so. The ancient 
philosopher was right when he described the art of 
imitating as the mistress of all others, because it is 
by making copies that we learn how to draw 

originals. ‘‘ The way of precept is long,” said the 
Stoics, “‘ but example makes it short and effica- 
cious.’ Seneca, treating of the best method of 

studying philosophy, says that it is to nourish and 
clothe ourselves with the maxims of eminently 
philosophical minds. 

Blessed Francis always inculcated this practice of 
imitating others in virtue. Hence his choice of 
spiritual books to be read and followed. With re- 
spect to the Lives of the Saints, he advised the 
reading by preference of those of holy men and 
women whose vocation has either been identical 
with or very much like our own, in order that we 
may put before ourselves models we can copy more 

*Exod. xxv. 40. 

Upon the example of the saints 331 

On one occasion, however, when I was telling 
him how I had taken him for my pattern, and how 
closely I watched his conduct and ways, trying 
thereon to model my own, and that he must be 
careful not to do anything less perfect, for if he did, 
I should certainly imitate it as a most exalted 
virtue, he said: ‘‘It is unfortunate that friend- 
ship, like love, should have its eyes bandaged and 
hinder us from distinguishing between the defects 
and the good qualities of the person to whom we 
are attached. What a pity it is that you should 
force me to live among you as if I were in an 
enemy’s country, and that I have to be as sus- 
picious of your eyes and ears as if you were spies! 

Still I am glad that you have spoken to me 
as you have done, for a man warned is a man 
armed, and I seem to hear a voice saying: ‘ Child 
of earth, be on thy guard, and always walk circum- 
spectly, since God and men are watching thee!’ 
Our enemies are constantly on the alert to find fault 
and injure us by talking against us; our friends 
ought to observe us just as narrowly but for a very 
different reason, in order, namely, that they may 
be able to warn us of our failings, and kindly to 
help us to get rid of them. 

The just man, says the Psalmist, shall correct 
me in mercy, and shall reprove me, but let not the 
oil of the sinner fatten my head. By the oil of the 
sinner is meant flattery. Do not be offended with 
me if I assure you that you are still more cruel to 
me, for you not only refuse to give me a helping 
hand to aid me in getting rid of my faults, which 
you might do by wholesome and charitable warn- 
ings, but you seem by your unfair copying of my 

332 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

faults to wish to make me an accomplice in your 
own wrong doings! 

As for me, the affection God has given me for 
you is very different. My jealousy for God’s 
honour makes me long so ardently to see you walk 
in His ways that your slightest failing is intoler- 
able to me, and so far am I from wishing to imi- 
tate your faults, that, if I seem to overlook them 
for a time, I am, believe me, doing violence to 
myself, by waiting with patience for a fitting 
Opportunity to warn you of them.”’ 


Blessed Francis considered—as indeed I have 
already told you in another place—that to love to 
listen to God, speaking to us, either by the 
living voice of His Priests, or in pious books, 
which are often the voice of His Saints, was one 
of the strongest marks of predestination. 

But he also insisted on the folly and uselessness 
of listening to, or reading, without putting in prac- 
tice the lessons so conveyed to us. This, he said, 
was like beholding our faces in a glass, then going 
our way, and forgetting what we are like. It is 
to learn the will of our Master and not to take 
pains to fulfil His commands. 

In his Philothea he says: 

‘“ Be devoted to the word of God, whether it 
comes to you in familiar conversation with your 
Spiritual friends, or in listening to sermons. Al- 
ways hear it with attention and reverence, profit by 
it as much as possible, and never permit it to fall 
to the ground. Receive it into your heart as a 
precious balm, following the example of the 

Hais love of retirement 333 

Blessed Virgin, who kept carefully in her heart 
every word that was spoken in praise of her divine 
Child. Do not forget that our Lord gathers up 
the words which we speak to Him in our prayers, 
in proportion to the diligence with which we gather 
up those He addresses to us by the mouth of His 

As regards spiritual reading, he recommended it 
most strongly as being food for the soul, which we 
could always keep at hand, at all times and in all 
places. He said that we might be where we could 
not always hear sermons, or easily have recourse to 
a spiritual director and guide, and that our memory 
might not always serve us to recall what we had 
been taught, either by preachers, or by those who 
had instructed us specially and individually in the 
way of salvation. He therefore desired those 
who aspired to lead a devout life to provide them- 
selves with pious books which would kindle in 
their hearts the flame of divine love, and not to 
let a single day pass without using them. He 
wished them to be read with great respect and 
devotion, saying that we should regard them as 
missives ‘‘ sent to us by the Saints from heaven, 
to show us the way thither, and to give us courage 
to persevere in it.” 


It is well known that if our Blessed Father had 
lived to return from Lyons, his intention was to 
retire from the world and its activities in which he 
had so long taken a part, and to lead henceforth a 
purely contemplative life. 

With this intention he had, some years before 

334 The Spirit of St. Frances De Sales 

his death, caused a little hermitage to be built in 
a most suitable and sequestered spot on the shores 
of the beautiful lake of Annecy. This, however, 
he had had done quite quietly without giving any 
idea of the real purpose for which it was destined. 

On this same shore there is a Benedictine Monas- 
tery called Taloire, easily accessible, as it is built 
on the slope of the hill. Into it he had introduced 
some salutary reforms, and he was on terms of the 
most affectionate intimacy with the holy men who 
lived a hidden life in its quiet seclusion. 

At the top of a neighbouring spur of this same 
mountain, on a gentle and smooth rising ground, 
surrounded by rich vineyards and delightful shrubs 
of various kinds, watered by clear streams, stood 
an old chapel, dedicated to God, under the name 
of St. Germain, a Saint who had been one of the 
first monks in the Monastery and who is greatly 
honoured in that part of the country. Blessed 
Francis secretly gave the necessary funds for re- 
pairing and decorating this chapel, and for building 
round it five or six cells pleasantly enclosed. This 
hermitage, the Superior said, would be most useful 
to his monks, enabling them to make their spiritual 
retreats in quiet solitude. Indeed, from time to 
time he sent them there for this purpose, in accord- 
ance with the rule of St. Benedict, which so greatly 
recommends solitude, a rule practised to the letter 
in the hermitages of Montserrat in Spain. 

Here, then, in this quiet and lonely retreat, it 
was the intention of Blessed Francis to spend the 
last years of his life, and when he spoke upon the 
subject in private to the good Prior, he expressed 
himself in these words: ‘‘ When I get to onp her- 

How he sanctified his recreations 335 

mitage I will serve God with my breviary, my 
rosary, and my pen. Then I shall have plenty of 
happy and holy leisure, which I can spend in put- 
ting on paper, for the glory of God and the instruc- 
tion of souls, thoughts which have been surging 
through my mind for the last thirty years and 
which have been useful to me in my sermons, in 
my instructions, and in my own private medita- 
tions. My memory is crowded with these, but 
I hope, besides, that God will inspire me with 
others, and that ideas will fall upon me from 
heaven thick and fast as the snowflakes which 
in winter whiten all our mountains. Oh! 
who will give me the wings of a dove, that I may 
fly to this holy resting place, and draw breath for a 
little while beneath the shadow of the Cross? I 
expect until my change come!’’* 


Blessed Francis, gentle and indulgent to others 
as regards recreation, was severe towards himself 
in this matter. He never had a garden in either 
of the two houses which he occupied during the 
time of his episcopate, and only took walks when 
the presence of guests made them necessary, or 
when his physician prescribed them for his health, 
for he obeyed him faithfully. 

But he acted otherwise with his friends and 
neighbours. He approved of agreeable conversa- 
tion after meals, never showing weariness, or 
making them feel ill at ease. When I went to visit 
him, he took pains to amuse me after the fatigue 
of preaching, either by a row on the beautiful lake 

"Job xiv. 14. 

336 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

of Annecy, or by delightful walks in the fine 
gardens on its banks. He did not refuse similar 
recreations which I offered him when he came to 
see me, but he never asked for or sought them for 
himself. Although he found no fault with those 
who talked enthusiastically of architecture, pictures, 
music, gardening, botany, and the like, and who 
devoted themselves to these studies or amusements, 
he desired that they should use them as mystical 
ladders by means of which the soul may rise to 
God, and by his own example he showed how this 
might be done. 

If any one pointed out to him rich orchards filled 
with well-grown fruit trees: ‘‘ We,” he would say, 
“are the agriculture and husbandry of God.” 
If buildings of just proportion and symmetry: 
“ We,” he would say, “‘ are the edifice of God.”’ 
If some magnificent and beautifully decorated 
church: ‘‘ We are the living temples of the living 
God. Why are not our souls as richly adorned 
with virtues?” If flowers: ‘‘ Ah! when will our 
flowers give fruits, and, indeed, be themselves fruits 
of honour and integrity ? ” 

When there was any talk of budding and graft- 
ing, he would say: ‘‘ When shall we be rightly 
grafted? When shall we yield fruits both plentiful 
and well flavoured to the heavenly Husbandman, 
who cultivates us with so much care and toil? ” 
When rare and exquisite pictures were shown to 
him: ‘‘ There is nothing,’ he would say, ‘‘so 
beautiful as the soul which is made to the image 
and likeness of God.” 

When he was taken into a garden, he would 
exclaim’: ‘‘ Ah! when will the garden of our soul 

What he drew from some lines of poetry 337 

be planted with flowers and plants, well cultivated, 
all in perfect order, sealed and shut away from all 
that can displease the heavenly Gardener, who 
appeared under that form to Magdalen! ’’ At the 
sight of fountains: ‘‘ When will fountains of 
living water spring up in our hearts to life eternal ? 
How long shall we continue to dig for ourselves 
miserable cisterns, turning our backs upon the pure 
source of the water of life? Ah! when shall we 
draw freely from the Saviour’s fountains! When 
shall we bless God for the rivers of Israel! ” 

And so on with mountains, lakes, and rivers. 
He saw God in all things and all things in God. 


One day we went together into the cell of a cer- 
tain Carthusian monk, a man whose rare beauty of 
mind, and extraordinary piety, drew many to visit 
him, and in later days have taken his candlestick 
from under its bushel and set it up on high as one 
of the lights of the French Church. 

He had written in capital letters round the walls 
of his cell these two beautiful lines of an old Latin 

Tu mihi curarum requies, tu nocte vel atra 
Lumen, et in solis tu mihi turba locis.* 

Thou art my rest in grief and care, 
My light in blackest gloom ; 

In solitude which thou dost share, 
For crowds there is no room. 

338 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

Our Blessed Father read and re-read these lines 
Several times, thinking them so beautiful that he 
wished to engrave them on his memory, believing 
that they had been written by some christian poet, 
perhaps Prudentius. Finding, however, that they 
were composed by a pagan, and on a profane sub- 
ject, he said it was indeed a pity that so brilliant 
a burst of light should only have flashed out from 
the gross darkness of heathenism. ‘‘ However,” 
he continued, “‘this good Father has made the 
vessels of the Egyptians into a tabernacle, lining it 
with the steel mirrors which had lent themselves to 
feminine vanity. Thus it is that to the pure all 
things are pure. This, indeed, is quite a different 
thing from the way of acting of those who make 
light of the holy words of Scripture, using them 
carelessly and even jestingly in idle conversation, 
a practice intolerable among christians who profess 
to reverence these oracles of salvation.’’ 

We then began to analyse these beautiful lines, 
taking them in the sense in which the holy monk 
had taken them when he wrote them on his walls, 
namely, as addressed to God. Our Blessed Father 
said that God alone was the repose of those who had 
quitted the world and its cares to listen to His voice 
speaking to their hearts in solitude, and that with- 
out this attentive hearkening, solitude would be a 
long martyrdom, and a source of anxiety in place 
of a centre of tranquillity. 

At the same time he said that those who were 
burdened with Martha’s busy anxieties would not 
fail to enjoy in the very midst of their hearts the 
deep peace of Mary’s better part, provided they 
carried all their cares to God. 

What he drew from some lines of poetry 339 

We saw afterwards another inscription contain- 
ing these words of the Psalmist: 

This is my rest for ever and ever: 
Here will I dwell for I have chosen it.* 

‘Itis in God,” said our Blessed Father, ‘‘ rather 
than in a cell, that we should choose our abode, 
never to change it. Oh! happy and blessed are 
they who dwell in that house, which is not only the 
house of the Lord, but the Lord Himself. Happy, 
indeed, for they shall praise Him for ever and 

Then we came upon another inscription, bearing 
these words: One thing I have asked of the Lord, 
this will I seek after; that I may see the delight of 
the Lord and visit His Temple.t 

‘“ This true dwelling of the Lord,” said he, “is 
His holy will; which is signified by the word de- 
light; i.e., pleasure. Since in God there is no 
pleasure that is not good, what difference can there 
be between the good pleasure and the will of God? 
The will of God never tends but towards good- 

We then went back to the second part of the Latin 
distich: Tu nocte vel atra, lumen: my light in 
blackest gloom. 

‘Yes, truly,” he said, ‘‘ Jesus born in Bethle- 
hem brought a glorious day-dawn into the midst of 
night; and by His Incarnation did He not come to 
enlighten those who were sitting in darkness and in 
the shadow of death? He is, indeed, our Light 
and our Salvation ; when we walk through the valley 

of the shadow of death we need fear nothing if He 
*Psal. cxxxl. 14. Psal. xxvi. 4. 

340 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

is at our side. He is the Light of the world; He 
dwells in light tnaccessible, light that no darkness 
can overtake. He alone can lighten our darkness.” 

Upon the last clause of the beautiful verse: 

Et in solis tu mihi turba locis. 
In solitude which thou dost share, For crowds there 
1s no room. 
he said: “ Yes, communion with God in solitude 
is worth a thousandfold the pleasantest converse 
with the gay crowds who throng the doors of the 
wealthy; for the rich man can only maintain his 
splendour by dint of much toil, and is worn out by 
his cares and by the importunity of others. Miser- 
able, indeed, are riches acquired at so great cost, 
retained with so much trouble, and yet lost with such 
painful regret.” 

This was one of his favourite sayings: ‘‘ We must 
find our pleasure in ourselves when we are alone, 
and in our neighbour as in ourselves when we are 
in his company. Yet, wherever we may be, we 
must primarily find our pleasure in God alone, who 
is the maker of both solitude and society. He who 
does otherwise will find all places wearisome and 
unsatisfying ; for solitude without God is death, and 
the society of men without God is more harmful 
than desirable. Wherever we may be, if God is 
there, all is well: where He is not, nothing is well: 
without Him we can do nothing that has any 


Perhaps there is nothing of which men are more 
apt to complain than of their own condition in life. 
This temptation to discontent and unhappiness is a 

Upon self-sufficiency, ke. 341 

favourite device of the enemy of souls. The holy 
Bishop used to say: ‘“‘ Away with such thoughts! 
Do not sow wishes in other people’s gardens; do 
not desire to be what you are not, but rather try 
most earnestly to be the best of what youare. Try 
with all your might to perfect yourself in the state 
in which God has placed you, and bear manfully 
whatever crosses, heavy or light, may be laid upon 
your shoulders. Believe me, this is the funda- 
mental principle of the spiritual life; and yet, of 
all principles it is the least well understood. Every 
one follows the bent of his own taste and desires; 
very few find their sole happiness in doing their 
duty according to the pleasure of our Lord. What 
is the use of building castles in Spain, when we 
have to live in France! 

This, as you remember, is old teaching of mine, 
and by this time you ought to have mastered it 


There is one kind of self-sufficiency which is blame- 
worthy and another which is laudable. The former 
is a form of pride and vanity, and those whom it 
dominates are termed conceited. Holy Scripture 
says of them that they trust in themselves. This 
vanity is so absurd that it seems more deserving of 
contempt and ridicule than of grave blame. 

But to turn to good and rational contentedness. 
Of it the ancient stoic said that what is sufficient is 
always at our command, and that what we labour 
for is superfluous; and again, that if we live accord- 
ing to the laws of nature we shall never be poor, but 
if we want to live according to our fancies we shall 
never be rich. 

342 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

To be contented with what really suffices, and to 
persuade ourselves that what is more than this is 
either evil or leading to evil, is the true means of 
leading a tranquil, and therefore a happy, life. 

This is not only my own opinion, but it is also 
that of our blessed Father, who congratulates a 
pious soul on being contented with the sufficiency 
she had. ‘“‘ God be praised for your contentment 
with the sufficiency which He has given you. Per- 
severe in thanking Him for it. It is, indeed, the 
beatitude of this poor earthly life to be contented 
with what is sufficient, because those who are not 
contented when they have enough will never be con- 
tented, how much soever they may acquire. In the 
words of your book—since you call it your book 
—Nothing will ever content those who are not con- 
tented when they have enough. 


If the poor, by reason of their poverty, are mem- 
bers of Jesus Christ, the sick are also such by reason 
of their sickness. Our Saviour Himself has told 
us so: I was sick, and you visited Me.* For if the 
great Apostle St. Paul said that with the weak he 
was weak,f how much more the divine Exemplar, 
whom he but copied? 

Our Blessed Father expressed as follows his feel- 
ings of respect and honour towards a sick person 
to whom he was writing. ‘‘ While I think of you 
sick and suffering in your bed, I regard you with 
special reverence, and as worthy of being singularly 
honoured as a creature visited by God, clothed in 

*Matt. xxv. 36, -t2) Gor. caeeze: 

The reverence of Blessed Francis, £c. 343 

His apparel, His favoured spouse. When our 
Lord was on the Cross He was proclaimed King 
even by His enemies, and souls who are bearing the 
cross (of suffering) are declared to be queens. Do 
you know why the angels envy us? Assuredly, 
because we can suffer for our Lord, whilst they have 
never suffered anything for His sake. St. Paul, 
who had been raised to heaven and had tasted the 
joys of Paradise, considered himself happy only 
because of his infirmities, and of his bearing the 
Cross of our Lord.” 

Farther on he entreats her, as a person signed 
with the Cross, and a sharer in the sufferings of 
Jesus Christ, to commend to God, though in an 
agony of pain, an affair of much importance which 
concerned the glory of God. He held that in a con- 
dition such as hers was, prayer would be more 
readily heard, just as our Saviour, praying fer- 
vently on the Cross, was heard for His reverence. 
The Psalmist was of the same opinion, saying that 
God heard him willingly when he cried to Him in 
the midst of his tribulation, and that it was in his 
afflictions that God was nearest to him. 

Our Blessed Father believed that prayers offered 
by those who are in suffering, though they be short, 
are more efficacious than any others. He says: 
‘“ I entreat you to be so kind as to recommend to 
God a good work which I greatly desire to see 
accomplished, and especially to pray about it when 
you are suffering most acutely: for then it is that 
your prayers, however short, if they are heartfelt, 
will be infinitely well received. Ask God at that 
time also for the virtues which you need the 

344 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 


One day we went together to visit a very aged 
lady in her last illness. Her piety, which was of no 
ordinary kind, made her look forward calmly to the 
approach of death, for which she had prepared by 
the reception of the Sacraments of Penance and of 
the Blessed Eucharist. She only awaited the visit 
of her doctor before asking for that of Extreme 

All her worldly affairs were in perfect order, and 
but one thing troubled her, namely, that her chil- 
dren who had all assembled round her, on hearing 
of her danger, were too indefatigable in their atten- 
dance upon her, and this, as she thought, to the 
detriment of their own health. Our Blessed Father 
wishing to comfort her, said tenderly: “‘ Do you 
know that I, on the contrary, when I am ill, am 
never so happy as when I see my relatives and ser- 
vants all busy about me, tiring themselves out on 
my behalf. You are astonished, and ask me why 
I feel like this. Well, it is because I know that God. 
will repay them generously for all these services. 
For if a cup of cold water given to a poor man in 
the love and for the love of God receives such a 
reward as eternal life; if our least labours under- 
taken for the love of God work in us the weight of a 
supreme glory, why should we pity those whom we 
see thus occupied, since we are not ill-disposed 
towards them, nor envious of their advantages ? 
For unto you it is given, said St. Paul to the 
christians of his day, not only to believe in Christ, 
but also to suffer for Him. 

Upon the care of the Sick. 845 

The reapers and vintagers are never happier than 
when they are heavily laden, because that proves 
the harvest, or the vintage, to have been plentiful. 
In truth, if those who wait on us, whether in health 
or in sickness, are only considering us, and not 
God, and are only seeking to please us, they make 
so bad a use of their toil that it is right they should 
suffer for it. He who serves the prophet for the 
love of the prophet shall receive the reward of the 
prophet. But, if they serve us for the love of God 
they are more to be envied than pitied; for he who 
serves the prophet in consideration of Him who 
sends him shall receive the reward of God, a reward 
which passes all imagination, which is beyond price, 
and which no words can express.” 

In his visiting of the sick when on their death- 
bed our Blessed Father was truly an angel of peace 
and consolation. He treated the sick person with 
the utmost sweetness and gentleness, speaking from 
time to time a few words suited to his condition and 
frame of mind, sometimes uttering very short ejacu- 
latory prayers, or aspirations for him, sometimes 
leading the sufferer to utter them himself, either 
audibly, or, if speech was painful to him, secretly 
in his heart; and then allowing him to struggle un- 
disturbed with the mortal pains which were assail- 
ing him. 

He could not bear to see the dying tormented 
with long exhortations. That was not the time, he 
would say, for preaching, or even for long prayers; 
all that was needed was to keep the soul sustained 
in the atmosphere of the divine will, which was 
to be its eternal element in heaven, to keep it up, 
I say, by short beatings of the wings, like birds, 

346 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

who in this way save themselves from falling to the 


When any of his friends or relatives died he never 
tired of speaking well of them nor of recommending 
their souls to the prayers of others. He used to 
say: ‘‘ We do not remember our dead, our dear 
ones who have left us, nearly enough; and the 
proof that we do not remember them enough is 
that we speak of them too seldom. We turn away 
conversation from that subject as though it were 
a painful one; we let the dead bury their dead, their 
memory die out in us with the sound of the funeral 
knell, seeming to forget that a friendship which 
can end even with death can never have been a 
true one. Holy Scripture itself tells us that true 
charity, that is, divine and supernatural love, is 
stronger than death! It seems to me that as a 
burning coal not only remains alive but burns more 
intensely when buried under ashes, so sincere and 
pure love ought to be made stronger by death, and 
to impel us to more fervent prayers for our deceased 
friends and relatives than to supplications for those 
who are yet living. 

For thus we look upon the dead more absolutely 
as in God, since, having died in Him, as we piously 
believe, they rest upon the bosom of His mercy. 
Then, praise can no longer be suspected of flattery, 
and, as it is a kind of impiety to tear to pieces the 
reputation of the dead, like wild beasts digging up 
a corpse to devour it; so it is a mark of piety to 
rehearse and extol the good qualities of the departed, 

Upon speaking well of the Dead. 347 

since our doing so incites us to imitate them: 
nothing affecting us so deeply and so strongly as 
the example of those with whom we come in close 
and frequent contact.” 

In order to encourage people to pray for the dead 
he used to represent to them that in this one single 
work of mercy all the other thirteen are included, 
explaining his statement in the following manner. 
‘Are we not,” he would say, “‘in some sort 
visiting the sick when we obtain by our prayers 
relief or refreshment for the poor Souls in 
purgatory ? 

Are we not giving drink to the thirsty and feeding 
the hungry when we bestow the cool, refreshing 
dew of our prayers upon those who, plunged in the 
midst of its burning flames, are all athirst and 
hungering for the vision of God? When we help 
on their deliverance by the means which Faith 
suggests, are we not most truly ransoming 
prisoners? Are we not clothing the naked when 
we procure for soulsa garment of light, the light of 

Is it not an act of the most princely hospitality 
to obtain for them an entrance into the heavenly 
Jerusalem, and to make them fellow-citizens with 
the saints and servants of God in the eternal Zion? 

Then, as regards the spiritual works of mercy. 
Is it not the most splendid thing imaginable to 
counsel the doubtful, to convert the sinner, to 
forgive injuries, to bear wrongs patiently? And 
yet, what is the greatest consolation we can give to 
the afflicted in this life compared to the solace our 
prayers bring to the poor souls who are in such 
grievous suffering ? ” 

348 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 


Strictly speaking, the sojourn which we 
make on earth, in the days of our flesh 
and which we call life, is rather death than 
life, since ‘‘every moment leads us from the 
cradle to the grave.” 

This made an ancient philosopher say that we 
are dying every day of our lives, that every day 
some portion of our being falls away, and that what 
we call life is truly death.* 

Hence the beautiful saying of the wise woman 
of Thecua: We all die, and like waters that return 
no more, we fall down into the earth.+ 

Nature has imprinted in the hearts of all men 
a horror of death. Our Saviour, even, taking upon 
Himself our flesh and making Himself like to His 
brethren, sin only excepted, would not be exempted 
from this infirmity, although He knew that the 
passage into another world would set Him free 
from all miseries and transport Him into a glory 
which He already possessed as regarded His 
soul. Seneca says that death ought not to be 
considered an evil when it has been preceded by a 
good life. 

What makes death so formidable is that which 
follows upon it. We have, however, the shield of 
a most blessed hope to protect us against the terrors 
that arise from fear of the divine judgments. 
This hope makes us put our trust, not in our own 
virtue, but solely in the mercy of God, and assures 
us that those who trust in His goodness are never 

*Senec. Epist. 24. {2 Kings xiv. I4. 

Upon Death 349 

But, you say, I have committed many faults. 
True, but who is so foolish as to think that he can 
commit more sins than God can pardon? Who 
would dare to compare the greatness of his guilt 
with the immensity of that infinite mercy which 
drowns his sins in the depths of the sea of oblivion 
each time we repent of them for love of Him? It 
belongs only to those who despair like Cain to 
say that their sin is so great that there is no 
pardon for them,* for with God there is mercy and 
plentiful redemption, and He shall redeem Israel 
from all his iniquities.t 

Listen to the words of holy consolation which 
were addressed by our Blessed Father to a soul 
encompassed and assaulted by the terrors of death 
and of the judgment to follow. They are to be 
found in one of his letters. ‘“‘ Yes,” he says, 
‘death is hideous indeed, that is most true, but 
the life which is beyond, and which the mercy of 
God will give to us, is much to be desired. There 
must be no mistrust in your mind, for, miserable 
though we may be, we are not half so miserable 
as God is merciful to those who desire to love Him, 
and have fixed their hope in Him. When St. 
Charles Borromeo was at the point of death he had 
the crucifix brought to him, that by the contem- 
plation of his Saviour’s death he might soften the 
bitterness of his last agony. The best remedy of 
all against an unreasonable dread is meditation 
upon the death of Him who is our life; we shculd 
never think of our own death without going on to 
reflect upon that of Christ.” 

*Gen. iv. 13. tPsal. Ganx. 9-8. 

850 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 


You ask me if we are permitted to wish for death 
rather than offend God any more? I will tell you 
a thought which I believe was suggested to me by 
our Blessed Father, but I cannot distinctly 
remember on what occasion. 

“It is always dangerous to wish for death, 
because this desire, generally speaking, is only to 
be met with in those who have arrived at a very 
high pitch of perfection, which we dare not think 
we have reached, or else in persons of a morose 
and melancholy temperament, and but seldom in 
those of ordinary disposition like ourselves.” 

It is alleged that David, St. Paul, and other 
saints expressed their longing to be delivered from 
the burden of this body so that they might appear 
before God and be satisfied with the vision of His 
glory. But we must remember that it would be 
presumptuous to speak the language of Saints, not 
having their sanctity, and to imagine that we had 
it would be inexcusable vanity. To entertain such 
a wish because of sadness, disappointment, or 
dejection is akin to despair. 

But, you say, itis that you may no longer offend 
God. This, no doubt, shows great hatred of sin, 
but the Saints longed for death, more that they 
might glorify God. Whatever we may pretend, I 
believe it to be very difficult to have only this one 
end in view, in our desire to die. Usually it will 
be found that we are simply discontented with life. 
To get to heaven we must not only not sin, but we 
must do good. If we refrain from sin we shall 
escape punishment, but more is required to deserve 

Upon the same subject 351 


There are some who imagine that St. Paul de- 
sired to die in order only that he might sin no more 
when he said that he felt in himself a contradiction 
between the law of his senses and of his reason; 
and, feeling this, cried out: Oh! unhappy man 
that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of 
this death?* These people, therefore, as though 
they were so many little Apostles, when they are, 
by some trifle, goaded to impatience, instantly say 
that they desire to die, and pretend that their only 
wish is to be in a condition in which they cannot 
possibly offend God. This is, indeed, to cover up 
mere impatience and irritation with a fine cloak! 
But what is still worse, it is to wrench and distort the 
words of the Apostle and apply them ina sense of 
which he never thought. Our Blessed Father, in one 
of his letters, gives an explanation of this passage 
which is so clear and so excellent that I am sure 
it will be useful to you. He speaks thus: ‘‘ Oh, 
unhappy man that I am, said the great Apostle, 
who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 
He felt within himself, as it were, an armed host 
of ill humours, antipathies, bad habits, and natural 
inclinations which conspired to bring about his 
spiritual death; and because he fears them he 
declares that he hates them, and because he hates 
them he cannot support them without pain, and 
his grief makes him burst out into the exclamation 
which he himself answers in these words: The 
grace of God by Jesus Christ. This will deliver 
him not from the death of the body with its 

*Rom., vii. 24. 

3852 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

terrors, not from the last combat, but from defeat 
in the struggle, and will preserve him from being 

You see how far the Apostle is from 
invoking death, although elsewhere he desires to 
be set free from the prison of the body that he 
may be with Jesus Christ. He calls the mass of 
temptations which urge and incite him to sin a 
body of death, sin being the true death of the soul. 
Grace is the death of this death and the devourer 
of this abortion of hell, for where sin abounded 
grace superabounds. 

Grace, which has been merited for us by Jesus 
Christ our Saviour, to whom be honour and glory 
for ever and ever.” 


Here is a little village story to show how often 
true and solid piety is to be found among the lowly 
and ignorant, of whom the world thinks not at all. 
I had it from the lips of our Blessed Father, who 
loved to tell it. 

While visiting his diocese, passing through a 
little country town, he was told that a well-to-do 
inhabitant was very ill and desired to see him, and 
to receive his blessing before he died. Our Blessed 
Father hastened to his bedside and found him at 
the point of death, yet in full possession of all his 
faculties. When he saw the Bishop the .good 
farmer exclaimed: ‘‘ Oh! my Lord, I thank God 
for permitting me to receive your blessing before I 

Then the room being cleared of all his relations 
and friends, and he being left quite alone with the 

Upon the desire of heaven. 353 

holy Prelate, he made his confession and received 
absolution. His next question was, ‘‘ My Lord, 
shall I die?” The Bishop, unwilling to alarm him 
unnecessarily, answered quietly and reassuringly 
that he had seen people far more ill than he recover, 
but that he must place all his trust in God, the 
Master of life and death, who knows the number 
of our days, which cannot be even one more than 
he has decreed. 

“ But, my Lord,” returned the man, ‘‘do you 
really yourself think that I shall die?’ ‘‘ My son,” 
replied the good Prelate, “a physician could 
answer that question better than I can. All I can 
tell you is that I know your soul to be just now in 
a very excellent state of preparation for death, and 
that perhaps were you summoned at any other 
time, you might not be so fit to go. The best 
thing you can do is to put aside all desire of living 
and all care about the matter, and to abandon your- 
self wholly to the providence and mercy of God, 
that He may do with you according to His good 
pleasure, which will be undoubtedly that very 
thing which is best for you.” 

“ Oh, my Lord,” cried the sick man, ‘‘ it is not 
because I fear to die that I ask you this, but rather 
because I fear I shall not die, for I can’t reconcile 
myself to the idea of recovering from this sickness.” 

Francis was greatly surprised at hearing him 
speak in this manner, for he knew that a longing 
to die is generally either a grace given to very 
perfect souls such as David, Elias, St. Paul, and 
the like; or, on the contrary, in sinners a prelude 
to despair, or an outcome of melancholy. 

He therefore asked the man if he would really 


354 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

be sorry to live, and, if so, why such disgust for 
life, the love of which is natural in all men. 

‘“ My Lord,” answered the good man, “this 
world appears to me to be of so small account that 
I cannot think why so many people care for nothing 
beyond what it has to give. If God had not com- 
manded us to remain here below until He calls us 
by death I should have quitted it long ago.” 

The Bishop, imagining that the man had some- 
thing on his mind, or that the bodily pain he was 
enduring was too much for him, asked him what 
his trouble was—perhaps something about money ? 

“Not at all, replied he. “I have up tomine 
present time, and I am seventy, enjoyed excellent 
health, and have abundant means. Indeed, I do 
not, thank God, know what poverty is.” 

Francis questioned him as to his wife and chil- 
dren, asking him if any one of them w s an anxiety 
to him. ‘“‘They are each one a comfort and a 
delight to me,” he answered. ‘‘ Indeed, if I had 
any regret in quitting this world it would be that 
I shall have to part from them.” 

More and more surprised, and unable to under- 
stand the man’s distaste for life, the Bishop said: 
“Then, my brother, why do you so long for 
death ? ” 

““My Lord,” replied he, ‘‘it is because I have 
heard in sermons so much about the joys of Para- 
dise that this world seems to me a mere prison.” 
Then, speaking out of the fullness of his heart, and 
giving vent to his thoughts, he uttered marvellous 
words concerning the Vision of God in Heaven, 
and the love kindled by it in the souls of the 

Upon the desire of heaven 355 

He entered into so many details respecting the 
rapturous joys of Eternity that the good Bishop 
shed tears of delight, feeling that the good man 
had been taught by God in these things, and that 
flesh and blood had not revealed them to him, but 
the Holy Spirit. 

After this, descending from those high and 
heavenly speculations, the poor farmer depicted the 
grandeur, the wealth, and the choicest pleasures 
of the world in their true colours, showing their 
intrinsic vileness, and how in reality they are 
vanity and vexation of spirit, so as to inspire 
Blessed Francis himself with increased contempt 
for them. The Saint, nevertheless, did no more 
than silently acquiesce in the good man’s feelings, 
and to calm the excitement under which he saw 
that he was labouring, desired him to make acts 
of resignation, and indifference as to living or dying. 
He told him to follow the example set by St. 
Paul, and by St. Martin, and to make his own the 
words of the Psalmist: For what have I in 
heaven? And besides Thee what do I desire upon 
earth ?* 

A few hours later, having received Extreme 
Unction from the hands of the holy Bishop, the 
man quietly, and apparently without suffering, 
passed from this world. So likewise may we when 
our last hour comes fall gently asleep. Blessed are 
the dead who die in the Lord! 

Another story told me by our Blessed Father 
relates to himself and a man with whom he came in 

When he was at Paris in the year 1619, this 
gentleman, who was not only rich in this world’s 

*Psal. ikki. @s. 

356 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

goods but also in piety and charity, came to consult 
him on matters of conscience, and began thus: 
“ Father, I am much afraid that I shall not save 
my soul, and therefore I have come to you to beg 
you to put me in the right way.” 

The Bishop asked him what was the cause of 
this fear. He answered: ‘‘ My being too rich. 
You know Scripture makes the salvation of the 
rich a matter of such difficulty that, in my case, 
I fear it is an impossibility.” 

Francis, thinking that perhaps he had made his 
money dishonestly, and that on that account his 
conscience was now pricking him, questioned him 
as to this. 

“ Not at all,’* he answered. ‘‘ My parents, who 
were excellent people, left me no illgotten goods, 
and what I have added to my inheritance has been 
amassed by my own frugality and honest work. 
God preserve me from the sin of appropriating 
what belongs to my neighbour! No, my conscience 
does not reproach me in that respect.’’ 

‘“ Well, then,” said the Bishop, “‘ have you made 
a bad use of this wealth? ” 

“I live,” he replied, ‘fin such a manner as be- 
comes my rank and position, but I am afraid that 
I do not give enough to the poor, and you know 
that we shall be one day judged on this point.’’ 

“ Have you any children?” asked Francis. 
“ Yes,” he replied; ‘“‘ but they are all well provided 
for, and can easily do without me.”’ 

“ Really,” said the Bishop, ‘I do not see 
whence your scruples can arise; you are the first 
man I have ever met who has complained to me 
of having too much money; most people never 
have enough.” 


What ts tt to Die in God 357 

It was easy to set this good soul at rest, so docile 
was he in following the Bishop’s advice. The latter 
told me afterwards that he found upon enquiry 
that the man had formerly held high appoint- 
ments, discharging his duties in them most faith- 
fully, but had retired from all in order to devote 
himself to works of piety and mercy. Moreover, 
he passed all his time in churches or hospitals, or 
in the houses of the uncomplaining poor, upon 
whom he spent more than half his income. By his 
will, after his many pious legacies were paid, it 
was found that our Lord Himself was his real heir, 
for he gave to the town hospital a sum of money 
equal to that which was divided among his children. 
I may add that a life so holy and devoted was 
crowned by a most happy death. Truly, Blessed 
are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy! 


On one occasion Blessed Francis was asked 
what it was to die in God; what was the meaning 
of those words: Blessed are the dead who die in 
the Lord, that they may rest from their labours, for 
their works follow them.* 

He replied that to die in God was tc die in the 
grace of God, hecause God and His grace are as 
inseparable as the sun and its rays. He was asked 
again, if to die in God meant to die while in 
habitual grace, or to die in the exercise of charity, 
that is to say, whilst impelled by actual grace. 
He answered that in order to be saved it was 
enough to die in habitual or sanctifying grace, 
that 1s to say, in habitual charity; seeing that those 

*Apoc. xiv. 13. 

358 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

who die in this state, as for instance newly-baptized 
infants, though they may never have performed a 
single act of charity, obtain Paradise by right of 
inheritance, habitual charity making them children 
of God by adoption. Those, however, who die, 
not only in the holy and supernatural state of 
habitual charity, but whilst actually engaged in 
works of charity, come into the possession of 
heaven by a double title, that of inheritance and 
that of reward; therefore is it written that their 
works follow them. The crown of justice is 
promised by the just Judge to those who shall have 
fought a good fight and finished their course with 
perseverance, even to the end. 

Going on to explain what is meant by man’s 
dying in actual grace, he said that it was to die 
while making acts of lively faith and hope, of 
contrition, resignation, and conformity to the will 
of God. He added these words, włuen have 
always remained deeply impressed on my mind: 
‘“ Although God is all-powerful, it is impossible 
for Him to condemn to eternal perdition a soul 
whose will, at the moment of its leaving the body, 
is subject to, and united with, His own.” 


Judging from outward appearances, from the 
vigour of his frame, from his sound constitution, 
and from the temperate simplicity of his manner 
of life, it seemed probable that Blessed Francis 
wouid live to an advanced age. 

One day I said as much to him, he being at that 
time about forty-two or forty-three years old. 
“ Ah!” he replied with a sigh, ‘‘ the longest life 

Upon Length of Infe 359 

is not always the best. The best is that which has 
been best spent in the service of God,’’ adding 
these words of David: Woe is me that my sojourn- 
ing is prolonged; I have dwelt with the inhabitants 
of Cedar, my soul hath been long a sojourner.* 
I thought he was secretly grieving over his banish- 
ment from his See, his beloved Geneva (he always 
called it thus), wrapped in the darkness of error, 
and I quoted to him the words: Upon the rivers 
of Babylon there we sat, and wept.t 

“Oh! no,’’ he answered, ‘‘it is not that exile 
which troubles me. I am only too well off in our 
city of refuge, this dear Annecy. I meant the 
exile of this life on earth. As long as we are here 
below are we not exiled from God? While we 
are in the body we are absent from the Lord.t 
Unhappy man that I am! Who shall deliver me 
from the body of this death? The grace of God by 
Jesus Christ.§ 

I ventured in reply to remind him how much 
he had to make his life happy: how his friends 
esteemed him, how even the very enemies of 
religion honoured him, how all who came in contact 
with him delighted in his society. 

** All that,” he answered, ‘“‘ is beneath centempt. 
Those who had sung Hosanna to the Sor of God 
three days later cried out Crucifige. Such things 
do not make my life any dearer to me. If I were 
told that I should live as long again as I have 
already done, and that without pain, without law- 
suits, without trouble, or inconveniences of any 
kind, but with all the content and prosperity men 

*Psalm cxix. *+Psalm cxxxvi. f. 
t2 Cor. v. 6. §Rom. vil. 24-25. 

360 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

desire in life, I should be sadly disturbed in mind! 
Of what small account are not the things of time 
to him who is looking forward to a blessed Eter- 
nity! I have always praised the words of the 
Blessed Ignatius de Loyola, ‘Oh! how vile and 
mean earth appears to me when I meditate upon 
and look up to heaven.’ ”’ 


Concerning Purgatory, St. Francis used to say 
that in the controversy with Protestants there was 
no point on which the Church could support her 
doctrine by so many proofs, drawn both from the 
Scriptures and from the Fathers and Councils, as 
on this. He blamed those who oppose the doctrine 
for their lack of piety towards the dead. On the 
other hand, he reproved those Catholic preachers 
who, when speaking of Purgatory and of the pains 
and torments suffered there by the holy souls, do 
not at the same time enlarge upon their perfect love 
of God, and consequent entire satisfaction in the 
accomplishment of His will, with which their own 
will is so indissolubly united, that they cannot pos- 
sibly feel the slightest movement of impatience or 
irritation. Norcan they desire to be anywhere but 
where they are, were it even till the consummation 
of all things, if such should be God’s good pleasure. 

On this subject he recommended the careful study 
of the Treatise on Purgatory, written by blessed 
Catherine of Genoa. By his advice J read the book 
with attention, and have often re-read it, always 
with fresh relish and profit. I have even invited 
Protestants to read it, and they have been quite 
satished by it. One young convert admitted that 

Upon Purgatory 361 

had he seen this Treatise before his conversion it 
would have helped him more than all the discussions 
into which the subject had led him. 

St. Francis was of opinion that the thought of 
Purgatory ought rather to comfort than to terrify. 
“The majority of those,” he used to say, “who 
dread Purgatory do so in view of their own interests, 
and out of self-love, rather than for God’s interests. 
The cause of this is that those who preach on the 
subject are in the habit of depicting only the pains 
of that prison, and say not a word on the joy and 
peace which the souls therein detained enjoy. It is 
true that the torments of Purgatory are so great that 
the most acute sufferings of this life cannot be com- 
pared with them; but, then, on the other hand, the 
inward satisfaction of the sufferers is such that no 
amount of earthly prosperity or contentment can 
equal it. 1°. The souls who are waiting there enjoy 
a continual union with God. 2°. Their wills are in 
perfect subjection to His will; or, to speak more 
correctly, their wills are so absolutely transformed 
into the will of God that they cannot will anything 
but what He wills. 3°. If Paradise were open to 
them, they would rather cast themselves down into 
hell than appear before God stained and defiled as 
they see themselves still to be. 4°. They accept 
their Purgatory lovingly and willingly, because it 
is the good pleasure of God. 5°. They wish to 
be there, in the manner in which it pleases God 
that they should be, and for as long as He wills. 
6°. They cannot sin. 7°. They cannot feel the 
slightest movement of impatience. 8°. Nor be 
guilty of the smallest imperfection. 9°. They love 
God more than themselves and more than any other 

362 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

creature, and with a perfect, pure, and disinterested 
love. 10°. They are in Purgatory consoled by the 
angels. 11°. They are secure of their salvation. 
12°. They are in a state of hope, which cannot but 
be realized. 13°. Their grief is holy andcaim. 14°. 
In short, if Purgatory is a species of hell as regards 
suffering, it is a species of Paradise as regards 
charity. The charity which quickens those holy 
souls 1s stronger than death, more powerful than 
hell; its lamps are all of fire and flame. Neither 
servile fear nor mercenary hope has any part in 
their pure affection. Purgatory is a happy state, 
more to be desired than dreaded, for all its flames 
are flames of love and sweetness. Yet still it is to 
be dreaded, since it delays the end of all perfection, 
which consists in seeing God, and therefore fully 
loving Him, and by this sight and by this love 
praising and glorifying Him through all eternity.” 


He compared penance to an almond tree, not only 
in allusion to the word amendment and the expres- 
sion, amend your ways, both of which in the French 
language resemble in sound the word almond, but 
by a very ingenious comparison. 

“The almond tree,” he said, ‘‘ has its blossom 
of five petals, which as regards number bear some 
resemblance to the five fingers of the hand, its 
leaves are in the shape of a tongue, and its fruit 
of a heart. Thus the Sacrament of Penance has 
three parts which make up its whole. The first 
which concerns the heart is contrition, of which 
David says that God heals those wno are contrite 

Upon Penance 363 

of heart,* and that He does not despise the humble 
and contrite heart.t 

The second, which concerns the tongue, is con- 
fession. The third, which regards the hand, that 
is to say, the doing of good works, is satisfaction. 
Moreover,” he went on to say, ‘‘as there are 
almonds of two kinds, the one sweet, the other 
bitter, which being mixed make a pleasant flavour, 
agreeable to the palate, so also in penance there is 
a certain blending of sweetness and bitterness, of 
consolation and pain, of love and regret, resembling 
in taste the pomegranate, which has a certain sharp 
sweetness and a certain sweet sharpness far more 
agreeable than either sharpness or sweetness sepa- 
rately. Penance which had only the sweetness of 
consolation would not be a cleansing hyssop, power- 
ful to purge away the stains of iniquity. Nor, if it 
had only the bitterness of regret and sorrow, with- 
cut the sweetness of love, could it ever Jead us to 
that justification which is only perfected by a loving 
displeasure at having offended the Eternal, 
Supreme, and Sovereign Goodness.”’ 

Our Blessed Father treats of this mingling of love 
and sorrow proper to true penitence with so much 
grace and gravity in his Theotimus that I think 
nothing grander or sweeter could be written on the 
subject. Here is an extract. ‘‘ Amidst the tribu- 
lation and remorse of a lively repentance God often 
kindles at the bottom of our heart the sacred fire of 
His love; this love is converted into the water of 
tears, then by a second change into another and 
greater fire of love. Thus the penitent Magdalen, 
the great lover, first loved her Saviour; her love was 

"Psalm cxlvi. 3. TPsalm l. 19. 

364 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

converted into tears, and these tears into an excel- 
lent love; whence our Saviour told her that many 
sins were pardoned her because she had loved 
much. The beginning of perfect love not only 
follows upon penitence, but clings to it and knits 
itself to it; in one word, this beginning of love 
mingles itself with the end of penitence, and in this 
moment of mingling penitence and contrition merit 
life everlasting.’’* 


Our Blessed Father had a wonderful aptitude for 
distinguishing between what was real and genuine 
and what was false in the shame manifested by his 
penitents. He used to say that when this confusion 
was full of trouble and agitation it proceeded from 
self-love, from vexation and shame at having to own 
our sins and imperfections, not from the spirit of 
God. This he expresses in his second Conference 
in these words: 

‘“We must never suffer our confusion to be 
attended with sadness and disquietude; that kind 
of confusion proceeds from self-love, because we are 
troubled at not being perfect, not so much for the 

love of God as for love of ourselves.’’ An extract 
from Theotimus will close this subject most suit- 
ably : 

‘“ Remorse which positively excludes the love 
of God is infernal, it is like that of the lost. Repen- 
tance which does not regret the love of God, even 
though as yet it is without it, is good and desirable, 
but imperfect: it can never save us until it attains to 
love, and is mingled with it. So that, as the great 

Love of God. Book II. c. 20. 

Upon Interior Peace Amidst Anaieties 365 

Apostle said, even if he gave his body to be burned, 
and all his goods to the poor, and had not charity it 
would all be of no avail; we, too, may say with 
truth, that, however great our penitence may be, 
even though it make our eyes overflow with tears of 
sorrow, and our hearts to break with remorse, still 
if we have not the holy love of God it will serve us 
nothing as regards eternal life.’’* 


It isa great mistake when souls, in other respects 
good and pious, imagine that it is impossible to 
preserve inward peace amid bustle and turmoil. 
There are some even, strange to say, who though 
dedicated to God by their holy calling, complain if 
they are employed by their community in laborious 
and troublesome offices, calling them distracting 
functions and occupations. Assuredly, these good 
people know not what they say, any more than did 
St. Peter on Mount Thabor. 

What do they mean by distracting occupations ? 
Possibly those which separate us from God? I 
know nothing which can separate us from His love 
except sin, which ts that labour in brick and clay in 
which the infernal Pharaoh, tyrant of souls, and 
king over the children of pride, employs his un- 
happy subjects. These are the strange gods who 
give no rest either by night or by day. But with 
that exception, I know of no legitimate occupation 
which can either separate us from God, or, still 
more, which cannot serve as a means to unite us 
to Him. This may be said of all callings, of those 
of soldiers, lawyers, merchants, artisans. 

* Book ii. c. 10. 

866 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

Our Blessed Father devotes two chapters in his 
Theotimus to this subject, but he speaks even more 
explicitly upon it in one of his letters, in which he 
says: ‘‘ Let us all belong wholly to God, even amid 
the tumult and disturbance stirred up round about 
us by the diversity of human affairs. When can 
we give better proof of our fidelity than amid con- 
trarieties. Alas! my dearest daughter, my sister, 
solitude has its assaults, the world has its disorder 
and uproar; yet in either we must be of good 
heart, since everywhere heaven is close to those who 
have confidence in God, and who with humility and 
gentleness implore His fatherly assistance. Beware 
of letting your carefulness degenerate into trouble 
and anxiety.” 

‘‘ Tossed about upon the waves and amid the 
winds of many a tumult, always look up to heaven, 
and say to our Lord: ‘O God, it is for Thee that I 
set my sails and plough the seas; be Thou my guide 
and my pilot!’ And then console yourself by 
remembering that when we are in port the joys 
which will be ours will blot out all remembrance 
of our toils and struggles to reach it. Weare now 
voyaging thither in the midst of all these storms, 
and shall safely reach our harbour if only we have 
an upright heart, a good intention, firm courage, 
eyes fixed on God, and place all our confidence in 
Him. If the violence of the tempest makes our 
head dizzy, and we feel shaken and sick, do not let 
us be surprised, but, as quickly as we can, let us 
take breath again, and encourage ourselves to do 
better. I feel quite sure that you are not forgetful 
of your good resolutions as you pursue your way; 
do not then distress yourself about these little 

Upon Discouragement 367 

attacks of anxiety, and vexation, caused by the mul- 
tiplicity of domestic affairs. Nay, my dear daugh- 
ter, all this tumult gives you opportunities of prac- 
tising the dearest and most lovable of the virtues 
recommended to you by our Lord. Believe me, true 
virtue is not nourished in external calm any more 
than are good fish found in the stagnant waters of 
the marshes.”’ 

Our Blessed Father used to say that the most 
cowardly of all temptations was discouragement. 
When the enemy of our salvation makes us lose 
hope of ever advancing in virtue he has gained a 
great advantage over us, and may very soon succeed 
in thrusting us down into the abyss of vice. Those 
who fly into a passion at the sight of their own im- 
perfections are like people who want to strike and 
bruise their own faces, because they are not hand- 
some enough to please their self-love. They only 
hurt themselves the more. 

The holy Bishop wishing to correct this fault in 
one of his penitents said to her: ‘‘ Have patience 
with every one, but especially with yourself. I 
mean, do not be over-troubled about your imper- 
fections, but always have courage enough at once 
to rise up again when you fall into any of them. 
I am very glad to hear that you begin afresh every 
day. There is no better means for persevering in 
the spiritual life than continually to be beginning 
again, and never to think that one has done 

On these words we may make the following 

1. How shall we patiently suffer the faults of our 

368 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

neighbour if we are impatient over our own? 

2. How shall we reprove others in a spirit of 
gentleness if we correct ourselves with irritation, 
with disgust, and with unreasonable sharpness? 
What can come out of a bag but what is in it? 

3. Those who fret impatiently over their own 
imperfections will never correct themselves of them, 
for correction, if it is to be of use, must proceed from 
a tranquil, restful mind. Cowardice, says David, 
is the companion of trouble and tempest. 

4. He who has lost courage has lost everything, 
he who has thrown up the game can never win, nor 
can the soldier who has thrown away his arms 
return to the fight, however much he may want 
to do. | 

5. David said: I waited for him that saved me 
from pusillanimity and a storm. He who believes 
himself to be far advanced in the ways of God has 
not yet even made a good beginning. 

6. St. Paul, who had been raised to the third 
heaven, who had fought so many good fights, run 
so many splendid races, and had kept the Faith 
inviolate, in spite of all, never thought that he had 
finished his work, or reached the goal, but always 
pressed forward as though he had but just begun.* 

7. This mortal life is but a road leading to heaven. 
It is a road to which we must steadily keep. He 
who stops short in it runs the risk of not reaching 
safely the presence of God in which it ends. He 
who says, I have enough, thereby shows that he has 
not enough; for in spiritual things sufficiency im- 
plies the desire for more. 

tio Cor. Bid. Zaks 

Upon Rising After a Fall 369 


Our Blessed Father was a great enemy to hurry 
and over-eagerness, even in rising up again after a 

He used to say that if our act of contrition is 
more hurried than humble we are very likely to 
fall again soon, and that this second fall will be 
worse than the first. 

As he considered our penitence incomplete with- 
out an act of the love of God, so also he maintained 
recovery from a fall to be imperfect if not accom- 
panied by tranquillity and peace. He wished us to 
correct ourselves, as well as others, in a spirit of 
sweetness. Here is the advice which he gives on 
the subject. 

““ When we happen to fall from some sudden out- 
burst of self-love, or of passion, let us as soon as 
possible prostrate ourselves in spirit before God, 
saying, with confidence and humility : Have mercy 
on me, O Lord, for I am weak. Let us rise again 
with peace and tranquillity and knot up again our 
network of holy indifference, then go on with our 
work. When we discover that our lute is out of 
tune, we must neither break the strings nor throw 
the instrument aside; but listen attentively to find 
out what is the cause of the discord, and then 
gently tighten or slacken the strings, according to 
what is required.” 

To those who replied to him that we ought to 
judge ourselves with severity, ne said: “ It is true 
that with regard to ourselves we ought to have the 
heart of a judge, but as the judge who hastily, or 
under the influence of passion. pronounces sen- 


370 The Spit of St. Francs De Sales 

tence, runs the risk of committing an injustice, but 
not so when reason is master of his actions and 
behaviour, we must, in order to judge ourselves with 
equity, do so with a gentle, peacefui mind, not in a 
fit of anger, nor when so troubled as hardly to know 
what we are doing.” 


Since the measure and the model of the love which 
God commands us to bear towards our neighbour 
ought to be the just and christian love which we 
should bear towards ourselves, and as charity, which 
is patient and kind, obliges us to correct our neigh- 
bours’ faults with gentleness and sweetness, our 
Blessed Father did not consider it right that we 
should correct ourselves in a manner different from 
this, nor be harsh and severe with ourselves because 
of our falls and ill-doings. In one of his letters he 
wrote as follows: “ When we have committed a 
fault, let us at once examine our heart and ask it 
whether it does not still preserve living and entire 
the resolution te serve God. It will, I hope, 
answer yes, and that it would rather die a thousand 
deaths than give up this resolution. Let us go on 
to ask it further. Why, then, are you stumbling 
now? Why are you so cowardly? It will reply. 
I was taken by surprise: I know not how; but I 
am tolerably firm now. Ah! my dear daughter, we 
must pardon it; it was not from infidelity, but from 
infirmity that it failed. We must then correct our- 
selves gently and quietly, and not irritate and dis- 
turb ourselves still more. Rise up, my heart, my 
friend, we should say to ourselves, and lift up our 
thoughts to our Help, and our God. 

Upon Kindliness Towards Ourselves 371 

Yes, my dear daughter, we must be charitable 
to our own soul, and not rebuke it over harshly 
when we see that the fault it has committed was not 
fully wilful.” 

Moreover, he would not have us accuse ourselves 
over-vehemently and exaggerate our faults. At the 
same time, he had no desire that in regard to our- 
selves we should err on the side of leniency. He 
wanted us to embrace the happy medium, by humi- 
liating without discouraging ourselves, and by 
encouraging ourselves with humility. In another 
letter he says: ‘* Be just, neither accuse nor excuse 
your poor soul, except after much consideration, for 
fear lest if you excuse yourself when you should not, 
you become careless, and if you accuse yourself 
without cause, you discourage yourself and become 
cowardly. Walk simply and you will walk 


‘‘ Some people have so high an opinion of their 
own perfection that should they discover any fail- 
ings or imperfections in themselves thev are thrown 
into despair. They are like people so anxious about 
their health that the slightest illness alarms them, 
and who take so many precautions to preserve this 
precious health that in the end they ruin it.” 

Our Blessed Father wished us to profit, not only 
by our tribulations, but also by our imperfections, 
and that these latter should serve to establish and 
settle us in a courageous humility, and make us 
hope, even against hope, and in spite of the most 
discouraging appearances. ‘‘In this way,” he 
said, ‘‘ we draw our healing and help from the very 
hand of our adversaries.” 

372 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

To a person who was troubled at her imperfec- 
tions, he wrote thus: ‘‘ We should, indeed, like 
to be without imperfections, but, my dearest daugh- 
ter, we must submit patiently to the trial of having 
a human, rather than an angelic, nature. Our im- 
peifections ought not, indeed, to please us; on the 
contrary, we should say with the holy Apostle: 
Unhappy man that I am, who shall deliver me 
from the body of this death!* But, at the same 
time, they ought not to astonish us, nor to dis- 
courage us: we should draw from them submission, 
humility, and mistrust of ourselves; never discour- 
agement and loss of heart, far less distrust of God’s 
love for us; for though He loves not our imperfec- 
tions and venial sins, He loves us, in spite of them. 

The weakness and backwardness of a child dis- 
pleases its mother, but she does not for that reason 
love it less. On the contrary, she loves it more 
fondly, because she compassionates it. So, too, is 
it with God, who cannot, as I have said, love our 
imperfections and venial sins, but never ceases to 
love us, so that David with reason cries out to Him: 
Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak.” t} 


A good man meditating upon this passage, and 
taking it too literally, fell into a perfect agony, 
saying to himself: ‘““ Alas! how many times a day, 
then, must not I, who am not just, fall?” Yet 
during his evening examination of conscience, how- 
ever closely and carefully he searched, and however 
much he was on the watch during the day to observe 
his tailings and faults, he sometimes could not make 

* Rom. vii. 24. t+ Psalm vi. 3. 

The Just Man Falls Seven Times, £c. 373 

up the number. Greatly troubled and perplexed 
about this, he carried his difficulties to our Blessed 
Father, who settled them in this way: 

“In the passage which you have quoted,” he 
said, ‘‘ we are not told that the just man sees or 
feels himself fall seven times a day, but only that 
he does fall seven times, and that he raises himself 
up again without paying any heed to his so doing. 
Do not then distress yourself; humbly and frankly 
confess what you have observed of faulty in your- 
self, and what you do not see, leave to the sweet 
mercy of Him who puts out His hand to prevent 
those who fall without malice, from being jarred or 
bruised against the hard ground; and who raises 
them up again so quickly and gently that they never 
notice it nor are conscicus of having so much as 

The great imperfection of most of us proceeds 
from want of reflection, but, on the other hand, 
there are many who think overmuch, who fall into 
the mistake of too close self-inspection, and who are 
perpetually fretting over their failings and weak- 

Blessed Francis writes again on the subject: ‘‘ It 
is quite certain that as long as we are imprisoned 
in this heavy and corruptible body there will always 
be something wanting in us. I do not know 
whether I have already told you that we must have 
patience with every one; and, first of all, with our- 
selves. For since we have learnt to distinguish 
between the old Adam and the new, between the 
outward man and the inward, we are really more 
troublesome to ourselves than any of our neigh- 

874 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 


Of the three ways leading to perfection the first 
is called the puryative, and consists in the purifying 
of the soul; from which, as from a piece of waste 
ground, we must take away the brambles and 
thorns of sin before planting there trees which 
shall bear good fruit. This purgation has, how- 
ever, two different stages; that which precedes the 
justification of the soul, and that which follows it. 
This latter may again be subdivided into two parts. 
There is not only the freeing of the soul from sin, 
whether mortal or venial, but there is also its 
purgation from any inclination or attachment to 
either the one or the other. 

It is not enough to be purged from deadly sin; 
we must labour incessantly to rid ourselves of any 
love, however slight, of the sin from which we 
have been cleansed, otherwise we shall be only too 
likely to fall back into it again. It is the same as 
regards venial sins. Our Blessed Father speaks of 
this purgative way in his Philothea as follows: 

“ We can never be wholly pure from venial sins, 
at least, never for any continuous length of time, 
but we can and may get rid of any sort of affection 
for these lesser faults. Assuredly it is one thing to 
tell falsehoods once or twice, lightly and thought- 
lessly, and in matters of small importance; and 
another to take delight in lying and to cling fondly 
to this sort of sin.’’* 

Besides venial sins, there are certain natural 
propensities and inclinations which are called 
imperfections, since they tend towards evil, and, if 

* Part i. chap. 22. 

Upon the Purgatwe Way 375 

unchecked, lead to excesses of various kinds. They 
are not, properly speaking, sins, either mortal or 
venial; nevertheless they are true failings and 
defects of which we must endeavour to correct 
ourselves, inasmuch as they are displeasing both 
to God and man. Such are propensities to anger, 
grief, joy, excessive laughter, flattery, favouritism, 
self-pity, suspicion, over-eagerness, precipitancy, 
and vain affections. We must strive to rid 
ourselves of those defects which, like weeds, spring 
up without being sown in the soil of our corrupt 
nature, and incline us to evil from our birth. 

The means of getting rid of all these evils, whether 
mortal sins, venial ones, imperfections, or attach- 
ment to any or all of these, you will find most clearly 
set forth by our Blessed Father in the same book.* 

I once asked him what was the true difference 
between venial sin and imperfection, and I will 
try to recall his teaching on the subject that I may 
impart it to you. Every venial sin is an imper- 
fection, but every imperfection is not a venial sin. 
In sin there is always malice, and malice is in the 
will, hence the maxim that nothing involuntary is 
sin; and according to the degree of this malice, 
whether great or small, and according to the 
matter on which it is exercised, the sin is either 
mortal or venial. 

You ask me if imperfections are matters sufficient 
for confession, as well as venial sin. Our Blessed 
Father considered that it was well to accuse 
ourselves of them in order to learn from the con- 
fessor how to correct ourselves of and get rid of 
them. He did not, however, think them sufficient 

* Part i chaps. 6,7; 22; 234 24. 

376 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

matter for the Sacrament, and for this reason when 
his penitents only told him of imperfections he 
would make them add some venial sin committed 
in the past, so as to furnish sufficient matter for 
absolution. I say sufficient, but not absolutely 
necessary matter, for it is only mortal sin that has 
these two qualities. 


He compares venial sin to the diamond which 
was thought by its presence to prevent the loadstone 
from attracting iron. A soul attached to venial 
sin is retarded in its progress in the path of justice, 
but when the hindrance is removed God dilates the 
heart and makes it to run in the way of His com- 

You ask me if a great number of venial sins can 
ever make up a mortal one, and consequently cause 
us to lose the grace of God. 

No, indeed! Not all the venial sins which ever 
existed could make one mortal sin: but neverthe- 
less, not many venial sins are needed to dispose us 
to commit a mortal one, as it is written that he 
that contemneth small things shall fall by little 
and little,* and that he who loves danger shall 
perish in it. 

For, according to the maxim of St. Bernard, 
received by all spiritual writers, not to advance in 
the way of God is to fall back, not to sow with 
Him is to scatter, not to gather up is to lose, not 
to build is to pull down, not to be for God is to 
be against Him, not to reap with Him is to lay 
waste. Now to commit a venial sin is essentially 

*hedleMiinag,, “Tide. 77. 

Upon Vernal San. 377 

a not working with God, though it may not be a 
positive working against Him. 

“Charity,” says our Blessed Father, ‘‘ being 
an active quality cannot be long without either 
acting or dying: it is, say the early Fathers, 
symbolized by Rachel. Give me children, she 
said to her husband, otherwise I shall die.* Thus 
charity urges the heart which she has espoused to 
make her fertile in good works; otherwise she will 

Venial sin, especially when the soul clings to it, 
makes us run the risk of losing charity, because 
it exposes us to the danger of committing mortal 
sin, by which alone charity is driven forth and 
banished from the soul. On this subject our 
Blessed Father, in the chapter from which we have 
already quoted, speaks as follows: ‘“‘ Neither venial 
sin, nor even the affection to it, is contrary to the 
essential resolution of charity, which is to prefer 
God before all things; because by this sin we love 
something outside reason but not against reason. 
We make too much and more than is fit of creatures, 
yet we do not positively prefer them before the 
Creator. We occupy ourselves more than we ought 
in earthly things; yet we do not, for all that, 
forsake heavenly things. 

In fine, venial sin impedes us in the way of 
charity, but does not put us out of it, and, therefore, 
venial sin, not being contrary to charity, never 
destroys charity either wholly or partially.” 

Further on he says: ‘‘ However, venial sin is sin, 
and consequently it troubles charity, not as a thing 
that is contrary to charity itself, but as being 

* The Love of God. Book iv. chap. 2. 

378 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

contrary to its operations and progress and even to 
its intention. For, as this intention is that we should 
direct all our actions to God, it is violated by 
venial sin, which is the referring of an action to 
something outside of God and of the divine will.” 


There are some scrupulous minds which are 
perplexed by everything and frightened at shadows. 
In conversation, and in mixing with others, a faulty 
word which they may hear or a reprehensible action 
they may witness, however much they may in their 
secret hearts detest it, is at once charged upon 
their own conscience as a partaking in the sins of 

They are also troubled with doubts, and are 
uncertain whether it is their duty or not to denounce 
the faults of their neighbour, to express their own 
disapproval, and to rebuke the offender. Toa soul 
perplexed on this subject our Blessed Father gives 
the following wholesome advice: “‘ As regards 
conversation, my dear daughter, do not worry 
about anything said or done by others. If good, 
you can praise God for it, if evil, it will furnish 
you with an opportunity of serving God by turning 
away your thoughts from it, showing neither 
surprise nor irritation, since you are not a person 
of sufficient importance to be able to put a stop to 
bad or idle talk. Indeed, any attempt on your 
part to do so would make things worse. Acting as 
as I bid you to do you will remain unharmed amid 
the hissing of serpents and, like the strawberry, will 
not assimilate their poison even though licked by 
their venomous tongues.”’ 

Upon Equivocating. 379 


Our Saint used to say that to equivocate was, in 
his opinion, to canonize lying, and that simplicity 
was, after all, the best kind of shrewdness. The 
children of darkness, he said, use cunning and 
artifice in their dealings with one another, but the 
children of God should take for their motto the 
words: He that walketh sincerely walketh con- 

Duplicity, simulation, insincerity always betray 
alow mind. If, in the language of the wise man, 
the lips that lie kill the soul, what can be the effect 
of the conversation of one who habitually speaks 
with a double heart ?* 


Some one was praising country life, and calling 
it holy and innocent. 

Blessed Francis replied that country life has draw- 
backs just as city life has, and that as there is both 
good and bad company, so there is also good and 
bad solitude. Good, when God calls us into it, as 
He says by a prophet, I will lead her into the 
wilderness and I will Speak to her heart.t Bad, 
when it is of that kind of which it is written, Woe 
to him that is alone.t 

As regards holiness and innocence, he said that 
country folk were certainly far from being, as a 
matter of course, endowed with these good quali- 

*Psalm xii. 3. 
Osee ii. 14. Eccle. iv. ro. 

880 The Spirit of St. Francs De Sales 

As for temptations and occasions of sin, he said: 
‘“ There are evil spirits who go to and fro in desert 
places quite as much as in cities; if grace does not 
hold us up everywhere, everywhere we may stumble. 
Lot, who in the most wicked of all cities was holy 
and just, when in solitude fell into the most 
dreadful of sins. Mencarry themselves about with 
them and find themselves everywhere, and frailty 
can no more be got rid of by them than can the 
shadow by the body that casts it. 

Many deceive themselves greatly and become 
their own seducers by imagining that they possess 
those virtues, the sins contrary to which they do 
not commit. The absence of a vice and the 
possession of its contrary virtue are very different 

To be without folly is, indeed, to have the 
beginning of wisdom, but it is a beginning so feeble 
as by itself scarcely to deserve the name of wisdom. 

Abstaining from evil is a very different thing 
from doing good, although this abstaining is of 
itself a species of good: it is like the plan of a 
building compared with the building itself. Virtue 
does not consist so much in habit as in action. 
Habit is in itself an indolent sort of quality, which, 
indeed, inclines us to do good, but does no more, 
unless inclination be followed by action. 

How shall he who has no one in command set over 
him learn obedience? He who is never contra- 
dicted, patience? He who has no superior, 
humility? And how shall he who, like a 
misanthrope, flies from intercourse with other men, 
notwithstanding that he is obliged to love them as 
himself, how shall he, I say, learn brotherly love? 

Upon Vanity 381 

There are many virtues which cannot be practised 
in solitude; above all, mercy, upon the exercise of 
which we shall be questioned and judged at the last 
day; and of which it is said: Blessed are the 
merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.* 


It is a vanity of the understanding to think 
ourselves more than we really are; but it is a far 
more dangerous vanity of the will to aspire to a 
condition higher than our own, and to persuade 
ourselves that we are deserving of it. He who 
thinks himself to be more than he is has in his 
mind some picture of content and satisfaction, and 
consequently some sort of tranquillity like one who 
finds his peace and repose in his riches. 

But he who aspires to a condition more exalted 
than his own is in a constant state of disquietude, 
like the needle of the compass which trembles 
incessantly until it points to the north. An ancient 
proverb makes the happiness of this life to consist 
in wishing to be what we are and nothing more. 

Quod sis esse velis, nihilque malis. 

Blessed Francis who, in his own opinion, had 
already risen too high in the hierarchy of the 
Church, turned his thoughts rather to giving up 
his dignities than to seeking promotion. He 
looked forward to the calm retreat of solitude 
rather than the dignity of illustrious offices. 

He was even apprehensive of the high esteem in 
which he knew that he was held, dreading lest he 
should be less the servant of God for thus delighting 

rratt. V. 7 

392 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

On one occasion some worthy soul having 
warned him to keep humble amid the praises and 
acclamations bestowed on him, he answered: 
“You please me greatly by recommending holy 
humility to me, for, do you know, when the wind 
gets imprisoned in our valleys, among our moun- 
tains, even the little flowers are beaten down and 
the trees are uprooted. I am situated rather high 
up and, in my post of Bishop, am tossed about 
most of all. O Lord! save us: command these 
winds of vanity to cease to blow and there will be 
a great calm. Stand firm, O my soul, and clasp 
very tightly the foot of our Saviour’s holy Cross: 
the rain which falls there in plenteous showers on 
all sides stills the wind, however violent it may be. 

When I am there, O my God, as I sometimes 
am, how sheltered is my soul, and how refreshed 
by that crimson dew! but no sooner have I moved 
a single step away than the wind again takes me 
off my feet!” 


You wish to know what St. Paul means when he 
says that knowledge puffs up and that charity 
edifies.* I imagine he means by the knowledge 
which puffs up, that which is destitute of charity 
and which consequently tends only to vanity. 
All those are vain, say the sacred Scriptures, who 
have not the knowledge of God;+ and what is this 
knowledge of God if not the knowledge of His 
ways and of His will? It is the God of knowledge 
who teaches this knowledge to men; the science of 
the saints, the science which makes saints, 

*ī Cor. viii. r. tSap. xiii. 1. 

Upon the Knowledge which Puffs Up 383 

the science of salvation, a science without 
which all else is absolute ignorance. He who 
thinks that he knows something and does not know 
how to save his soul, does not yet know what it is 
most important to know. Those who know many 
things without knowing themselves, and without 
knowing God in the manner in which even in this 
present life he can be known and desires to be 
known, resemble the giants in the fable, who piled 
up mountains and then buried themselves beneath 

Do not, however, think for a moment that, in 
order to save our souls, or to be truly devout, we 
must be ignorant; for, as sugar spoils no sauce, 
true knowledge is in no wise opposed to devotion. 
On the contrary, by enlightening the understanding 
it contributes much to fervour in the will. Listen 
to what our Blessed Father says on this subject in 
his Theotimus: ‘‘ Knowledge is not of itself 
contrary, but very useful to devotion. Meeting, 
they should marvellously assist one another; 
though it too often happens through our misery 
that knowledge hinders the birth of devotion, 
because knowledge puffeth wp and makes us proud, 
and pride, which is contrary to all virtue, ruins 
all devotion. Without doubt, the eminent science 
of a Cyprian, an Augustine, a Hilary, a 
Chrysostom, a Basil, a Gregory, a Bonaventure, 
a Thomas, not only taught these Saints to value, 
but greatly enhanced their devotion; as again, their 
devotion not only supernaturalized, but eminently 
perfected their knowledge.’’* 

“Book vi} chapra 

384 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 


it was Blessed Francis’ opinion that scruples 
have their origin in a cunning self-esteem. I 
call it cunning because it is so subtle and crafty 
as to deceive even those who are troubled by it. 
As a proof of this assertion he evidenced the fact 
that ‘‘ those who suffer from this malady will not 
acquiesce in the judgment of their directors, however 
discreet and enlightened in the ways of God they 
may be; obstinately clinging to their own opinions 
instead of, by humble submission, accepting the 
remedies and consequent peace offered to them. 
Who can wonder at the prolonged sufferings of the 
sick man who resolutely refuses every salutary 
remedy which he is entreated to take? Who will 
pity one who suffers himself to die of hunger and 
thirst, although everything that could satisfy the 
one and quench the other be placed within his 
reach ? 

Holy Scripture teaches us that the crime of 
disobedience is equal in guilt to that of idolatry 
and witchcraft. But what shall we say of the 
disobedience of the scrupulous, who so idolize their 
own opinions as to be absolutely slaves to them, 
and whom no sort of remonstrance or reasoning 
will convince of the idleness of their unfounded 

They will tell you, in answer to your judicious 
and soothing arguments, that you are only flattering 
them, that they are misunderstood, that they do not 
explain themselves clearly, and so on. 

This is, indeed, a malady difficult of cure, be- 
cause, like jealousy, its fires are fed by everything 
with which it comes in contact. May God preserve 

Upon Temptations 385 

you from this lingering and sad disease, which I 
regard as the quartan fever or jaundice of the soul.” 


‘If we only knew how to make a good use of 
temptations,’’ said our Blessed Father, ‘‘ instead 
of dreading, we should welcome them—lI had almost 
said desire them. But because our weakness and 
our cowardice are only too well known to us, from 
our long experience, and from many sorrowful 
falls, we have good reason to say, Lead us not inte 

If to this just mistrust of ourselves we united 
confidence in God, who is stronge: to deliver us 
from temptation than we are weak in falling into 
it, our hopes would rise in proportion to the lessen- 
ing of our fears. For by Thee I shall be delivered 
from temptation, and through my God I shall go 
over a wall,’’* 

With such a support can we not boldly tread 
upon the asp and the basilisk, and trample under 
foot the lion and the dragon ?t As it is in tempta- 
tion that we learn to know the greatness of our 
courage and of our fidelity to God, so it is by 
suffering temptation that we make progress 
in strength of heart, and that we learn to 
wield the weapons of our warfare, which are 
spiritual against the spiritual malice of our 
invisible enemies. Then it is that our soul, clothed 
in the panoply of grace, appears terrible to them 
as an army in battle array, and as the hosts of the 

*Psalm xxvi. 30. Psalm xc. 13. 

386 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

Some think that all is lost when they are 
tormented by thoughts of blasphemy and impiety, 
and fancy that their faith is gone. Yet as long 
as these thoughts merely distress them and they 
are resisted, they cannot harm them, and such 
stormy winds only serve to make souls become 
more deeply rooted in faith. As much has to be 
said of temptations against purity and other 
virtues, for the maxim is quite a general one. 

There is no good Christian who is not tempted. 
The angel said to Tobias: Because thou wast 
acceptable to God it was necessary that temptation 
should prove thee.* 


You ask me why God permits the enemy of our 
salvation to afflict us with so many temptations, 
which put us into such great danger of offending 
God and losing our soul. I might answer you in 
words from Holy Scripture, but I will give you 
our Blesed Father’s teaching on the subject, which 
is only an interpretation of what St. Paul and St. 
James tell us in their epistles: ‘‘ Do you know,” 
he says, ‘* what God does in temptation ? 

He permits the evil one to furbish up his wares 
and to offer them to us for sale, so that by the con- 
tempt with which we look upon them we may show 
our affection for divine things. 

Must you then, my dear sister, my dearest 
daughter, because of this temptation, fret and 
disquiet yourself and change your manner of 
thought ? 

*Tob xii. 13. 

Upon the same subject 387 

Oh, no! by no means, it is the devil who 
prowls round about your soul, peeping and prying 
to see if he can find an open door. He did this 
with Job, with St. Anthony, with St. Catherine of 
Siena, and with an infinity of good souls whom I 
know, as well as with my own, which is good-for- 
nothing, and which I do not know. And have you, 
my good daughter, to distress yourself about what 
the devil attempts? Let him wait outside and 
keep all the avenues of your soul fast shut. In 
the end he will be tired out, or if not God will 
force him to raise the siege. 

Remember what I think I have told you before. 
It is a good sign when the devil stirs up such a 
tumult outside the fortress of your will, for it shows 
he is not inside it. 

One cause of our interior trouble and mental 
disturbance is the difficulty we experience in 
discerning whether a temptation comes from within 
or from without, whether it is from our own heart 
or from the enemy, who takes up his position as a 
besieger before that heart? You may apply the 
following test in order to find out. 

Does the temptation please or displease you? 
One of the ancient Fathers says that sins which 
displease us cannot harm us. How much less then 
displeasing temptations! 

Notice that, as long as the temptation displeases 
you there is nothing to fear, for why should it 
displease if not because your will does not consent 
to itg” 

‘“ But,” you say, “‘if I, as it were, dally with the 
temptation, either from inadvertence or torpor, or 
slothful unwillingness to reject and repel it, is not 

888 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

that in a way taking pleasure in it?” “The evil 
of temptation is not measured by its duration: it 
may be working against us all our life long, but 
while it displeases us it cannot make us fall into 
sin; on the contrary, being repulsive to us, this 
very antipathy not only preserves us from being 
infected by its venom, but adds strength to our 
virtue and jewels to our crown.” 

“But I am so much afraid of taking pleasure 
init p 

“ That very fear is a proof that it displeases you, 
for we are not afraid of that which pleases us. We 
are not terrified except by what displeases us, just 
as we can only enjoy what is good or has the 
appearance of being good. 

‘“ If you were able all the time to look upon 
temptation as an evil it cannot have pleased you.” 

‘Still, is it wrong to find pkeasure in thinking 
of what is sinful?” ‘‘If this pleasure is felt 
before we reflect that the thing is evil it is of no 
consequence, since voluntary malice and consent 
are needed to make this pleasure a sin.” 

“ How shall we know whether or not we have 
yielded this consent?’’ ‘‘ Assuredly, it is difficult 
to define the nature of voluntary consent. This 
difficulty gave rise to the saying of the Psalmist, 
Who can understand sins ?* 

‘* This, too, is why he prays to be delivered from 
his secret faults, that is to say, from sins which he 
cannot easily discern.” 

I will, however, on this subject give you another 
excellent lesson which I learned from our Blessed 

*PSdlm iii. 13. 

Thoughts on the Incarnation 389 

“ When you are doubtful,” he said to me, 
‘whether or not you have consented to evil, always 
take the doubt for a negative, and for this reason. 
A true and full consent of the will is necessary to 
form a real grave sin, there being no sin in what 
is not voluntary. Now full consent is so clear that 
there can never be left in the mind a shadow of 
doubt about its having taken place.” 

This plain teaching surely cuts the gordian knot 
of our perplexities. 


There are two opinions held by theologians on 
the subject of the Incarnation. Some hold that had 
Adam never sinned the Son of God would not 
have become incarnate, others that the Incarnation 
would have taken place even had our first parents 
remained in the state of innocence and original 
justice in which they were created. For, as they 
urge, the Word was made flesh, not to merely be a 
redeemer and restorer of the human race, but that 
through Him God might be glorified. Our Blessed 
Father held this second opinion, which he advanced, 
`- not only in familiar conversation and in the pulpit, 
but also in his writings. In his Theotimus he 
expresses himself thus: ‘‘God knew from all 
eternity that He could create an innumerable 
multitude of beings with divers perfections and 
qualities, to whom He might communicate Him- 
self. And considering that amongst all the different 
communications which were possible, none was so 
excellent as that of uniting Himself to some created 
nature, in such sort that the creature might be 
engrafted and implanted in the Divinity, and be- 

390 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

come one single person with it: His infinite good- 
ness, which of itself and by itself tends towards com- 
munication, resolved and determined to communi- 
cate Himself in this manner. So that, as eternally 
there is an essential communication in God, by 
which the Father communicates all His infinite and 
indivisible divinity to the Son in producing Him, 
and the Father and the Son together producing the 
Holy Ghost, communicate to Him also their own 
singular divinity; so this sovereign sweetness was 
so perfectly communicated externally to a creature 
that the created nature and the divinity retaining 
each of them its own properties were, notwithstand- 
ing so united together that they were but one same 
person. Now of all the creatures which that Sove- 
reign Omnipotence could produce, He thought 
good to make choice of human nature which 
afterwards in effect was united to the person of God 
the Son. He created it, and to it He destined the 
incomparable honour of personal union with His 
divine majesty, to the end that for all eternity it 
might enjoy above all others the treasures of His 
infinite glory.’’* 

This thought has always pleased me exceedingly ; 
this thought, I mean, of the communication of God, 
in the worthiest manner possible, namely, through 
the mystery of the Incarnation. But ah! What 
shall we then say of the mystery of the most holy 
Eucharist, which is, as it were, an extension of the 
Incarnation! In the holy Eucharist the Son of 
God, in His overflowing mercy, not content with 
having made Himself the Son of Man, a sharer in 
our humanity and our Brother, has invented a won- 

*Book ii. chap. 4. 

Thoughts on the Incarnation 391 

drous way of communicating Himself to each one of 
usin particular. By this He incorporates Himself 
in us, and us in Him. He dwells in us, and makes 
us dwell in Him, becoming our food and support, 
flesh of our flesh, and bone of our bone, by a grace 
which surpasses every other grace, since it contains 
in itself the author of all grace! Truly, we possess 
in this divine mystery, though veiled and hidden 
under the sacramental species, Him whom the 
angels desire to see, even while they see Him con- 
tinually. Nor is there any difference between their 
possession and ours, except in the manner in which 
it is effected. For if they have the advantage of 
sight, we have that of a closer intimacy, seeing that 
He is only before them as the Beatific Vision, while 
He is actually within us, as the living and life- 
giving bread, a bread strengthening our heart, or, 
rather, the very heart of our heart, or the soul of our 
heart, or the heart of our soul. And if the heart of 
the disciples of Emmaus burned within them when 
He only spoke to them on their way, what ardour 
should be kindled in our breasts by the receiving of 
Him who came to bring the fire of divine love upon 
earth, that it might inflame and kindle all hearts! 
You ask me whether we are happier in having 
been redeemed from that state of original sin into 
which our first parents fell than had we been born 
in the innocence which was theirs at their creation. 
At first sight it would seem that never to have 
been bound by the chain of misery and evil with 
which the first sin of Adam fettered us would surely 
have been more desirable than even to be loosed 
from it by the divine goodness! This, however, is 
a merely human judgment, revealed to us by flesh 

392 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

and blood. The light of faith, far brighter and 
more ennobling, teaches us a sublimer lesson. This 
is what our Blessed Father says on the subject: 

‘“ Who can doubt of the abundance of the means 
of salvation, since we have so great a Saviour, for 
the sake of whom we have been made, and by whose 
merits we have been ransomed. For He died for 
all, because all were dead, and His mercy was more 
far-reaching when He built up anew the race of 
men than Adam’s misery when he ruined it. 

‘Indeed, Adam’s sin was so far from quenching 
God’s love for mankind, that, on the contrary, it 
stirred it up, and invited it. So that by a most 
sweet and loving re-action, love was quickened by 
the presence of sin, and as if re-collecting its forces 
for victory over evil, made grace to superabound 
where sin had abounded,.* Whence, Holy Church, 
in an excess of devout wonder, cries out (upon 
Faster-eve), ‘O truly necessary sin of Adam, which 
was blotted out by the death of Jesus Christ! O 
happy fault which merited to have such and so great 
a Redeemer!’ ‘Truly, Theotimus, we may say, as 
did he of old, ‘ We were ruined, had we not been 
undone; that is, ruin brought us profit, since in 
effect human nature, through being redeemed by its 
Saviour, has received more graces than ever it 
would have received if Adam had remained inno- 
cents ? 4 

One of the marvels of divine Omnipotence is that 
it knows by a secret power, reserved to itself alone, 
how to draw good from evil, the contrary from the 
contrary; water from fire, as in the furnace of the 
three children ; and fire from water, as in the sacred 

*Col. i. 16. 
The Love of God. Book ii. c. 5. {Daniel iii. 50. 

Thoughts on the Incarnation 393 

fire which was found in a well, the thick water of 
which was changed into fire. By this secret power 
He makes all things work together for good to those 
who love Him. 

‘ Truly,” says our Blessed Father, in the same 
place, ‘‘as the rainbow touching the thorn 
aspalathus, makes it more odoriferous than the lily, 
so our Saviour’s Redemption, touching our 
miseries makes them more beneficial and worthy of 
love than original innocence could ever have been. 

I say to you, says our Saviour, there shall be joy 
in Heaven upon one sinner that doth penance; 
more than upon ninety-nine just, who need not 
penance,* and so the state of redemption is a 
hundred times better than that of innocence. 

Verily, by the watering of our Saviour’s Blood, 
made with the hyssop of the Cross, we have been 
re-clothed in a whiteness incomparably more 
excellent than the snowy robe of innocence. We 
come out, like Naaman, from the stream of salvation 
more pure and clean than if we had never been 
leprous, to the end that the divine majesty, as He 
has ordained also for us, should not be overcome 
by evil, but overcome evil by good,t that mercy (as 
a sacred oil) should keep itself above judgment, t 
and God’s tender mercies be over all His works.’’§ 


These two Sacraments were styled by Blessed 
Francis the two poles of the christian life, because 
around them that life ever revolves. One purifies 
the soul, the other sanctifies it. He greatly 

m #Luke xv. 7. 
tRom. xii. fJames ii. 13. §Psalm cxliv. 9g. 

394 The Spirt of St. Francis De Sales 

admired the saying of St. Bernard that all the 
spiritual good which we possess is derived from the 
frequent use of the Sacraments. He would say that 
those who neglect the Sacraments are not unlike 
the people in the Parable, who would not accept 
the invitation to the Marriage Feast, and who thus 
incurred the wrath of the Lord who had prepared 
it. Some plead as their excuse that they “‘ are not 
good enough ’’; but how are they to become good 
if they keep aloof from the source of all goodness? 
Others say: ‘‘ We are too weak’’; but is not this 
the Bread of the strong? Others: ‘We are 
infirm ’’; but in this Sacrament have you not the 
Good Physician Himself? Others: ‘‘ We are not 
worthy ’’; but does not the Church direct that even 
the holiest of men should not approach the Feast 
without having on his lips the words: Lord! I am 
not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof? 
To those who plead that they are overwhelmed with 
cares and with the business of this life, He cries: 
Come to me all you that labour and are burdened 
and I will refresh you.* If any fear to come lest 
they should incur condemnation, are they not in 
yet greater danger of being condemned for keeping 
away? Indeed, the plea of humility is as false as 
that of Achaz, who detracted from the glory of God 
when he feigned to be afraid of tempting Him. 
What better way of learning to receive Him well 
can there be than receiving Him often? Is it not 
so with other acts which are perfected by frequent 
repetition ? 

He extolled highly the precept of St. Augustine 
on this subject. It was his desire that any person 

*Matt. xi. 28. 

Upon Confession and Communion 395 

(he was speaking of the laity) free from mortal sin, 
and without any affection for it, should communi- 
cate confidently yet humbly every Sunday,! if not 
advised by his confessors to do so oftener. He 
does not say ‘‘ anyone who is without venial sin,” 
for from that who is exempt? 

His sentiments with regard to Holy Communion 
were most sweet and so tempered by divine love, 
that reverent fear was in no way prejudicial to con- 
fidence, neither was confidence to reverence. He 
fervently desired that we should annihilate our- 
selves when receiving the Blessed Sacrament, as 
our Lord annihilated Himself in order to communi- 
cate Himself to us, bowing down the heaven of 
His greatness to accommodate and unite Himself 
with our lowness. 

But you will be better satisfied to hear his feelings 
expressed in his own words. 

They were addressed, not directly, but through 
the medium of another, to a person, who from a 
false idea of humility dared not approach this divine 
mystery, and who, in the words but not in the spirit 
of St. Peter, entreated her Saviour to depart from 

“Tell her,” he says, ‘‘to communicate fear- 
lessly, calmly, yet with all humility, in order to 
correspond with the action of that Spouse who in 
order to unite Himself with us annihilated Himself 
and lovingly abased Himself to the extent even of 
becoming our food and our pasturage; condescend- 
ing thus to us who are the food and pasturage 
of worms. Oh! my daughter, those who com- 

1By the recent Decree of Pope Pius X., His Holiness 
fea: that, with such dispositions, it should be daily. 


396 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

municate according to the spirit of the Heavenly 
Bridegroom, annihilate themselves and say to our 
Lord: feed on me, change me, annihilate me, con- 
vert me into Thyself. There is nothing, I think, in 
the world of which we have more absolute posses- 
sion, or over which we have more entire dominion, 
than over the food which, for our own self-preser- 
vation, we annihilate. 

Well, our Lord has condescended to this excess 
of love, namely, to give Himself to us for our food; 
and as for us, what ought not we to do in order 
that He may possess us, that He may feed on us, 
that He may make us what He pleases? ”’ 

Read what is said on this subject in the ‘‘ Devout 
life’? and the ‘‘ Conferences.” 


Our Blessed Father thought so much of frank- 
ness, candour and ingenuousness in Confession, 
that when he met with these virtues in his penitents 
he was filled with joy and satisfaction. 

It happened one day that he received a letter 
from one of his spiritual daughters telling him that 
she had been betrayed into the sin of malicious 
envy (by which she meant jealousy) of one of her 
sisters. He answered her letter as follows: ‘‘ I tell 
you with truth that your letter has filled my soul 
with so sweet a perfume, that I can affirm that I 
have not for a long time read anything so consoling. 
I repeat, my dear daughter, that this letter awakens 
in me such fresh ardour of love towards God who 
is so good, and towards you whom He desires to 
make so good, that I can only make an act of 

Upon a Change of Confessor 397 

thanksgiving for this to His divine Providence. 
Thus it is, my daughter, that we must always 
without a moment’s hesitation thrust our hands 
into the secret recesses of our hearts to tear out 
the foul growths which have sprung up there, from 
the mingling of our self-love with our humours, 
inclinations, and antipathies. Oh, my God! 
What satisfaction for the heart of a most loving 
Father to hear a beloved daughter protest that she 
has been envious and malicious! How blessed is 
this envy, since it is followed by so frank a con- 
fession! Your hand in writing your letter made a 
stroke more valiant than ever did that of Alex- 
ander! ”’ 


I have told you by word of mouth, and now I 
repeat in writing, so that you may better remember 
it, that the scruple of scruples is not to dare to 
change one’s Confessor. The Priest who should 
put this scruple into your head deserves to be left, 
as himself scrupulous, and unsafe. Virtue, like 
truth, is always to be found half way between two 
faulty extremes. To be always changing one’s 
Confessor, and never to dare to do so, or sooner to 
omit Confession than to confess to any one but 
our usual Confessor, are two blame-worthy 

In the one case we show ourselves volatile and ill- 
balanced; in the other we are cowardly. If you 
ask me which of the two is the more to be avoided 
I should say the second, and this because it seems 
to me to indicate a low tone of mind, human respect, 
attachment to the creature, and in general a slavish 

398 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

spirit which is quite contrary to the spirit of God, 
who only dwells there, where there is perfect liberty. 

St. Paul tells us that being redeemed by the 
Precious Blood of Jesus Christ we ought not to 
make ourselves slaves of men. 

Possibly, however, you would more readily 
submit your judgment to that of our Blessed Father 
than to mine. 

I remind you then how highly he thought of this 
holy christian liberty. You may be quite sure 
that he inculcated it on persons like yourself living 
in the world since, as I am going to show you, he 
made a great point of it with his Religious. 

The Holy Council of Trent having decreed that 
three or four times a year all nuns should have 
extra-ordinary Confessors given to them to relieve 
them from the yoke and constraint which might 
ensue from being always under the direction of 
one and the same ordinary Confessor, our Blessed 
Father decreed that every three months, in the four 
Ember weeks the Sisters of the Visitation, of which 
Order he was the Founder, should have an Extra- 
ordinary Confessor, carefully recommending to the 
Superiors to ask for one even oftener for any Sisters 
who might desire or really need his help. 

Blessed Teresa’ was also very careful to ensure 
to her Sisters this holy and reasonable liberty, 
which renders the yoke of the Saviour sweet and 
light as it should be, and her daughters, the 
Carmelites, still value their privilege as she did. 

Our Blessed Father used, moreover, to say that 
Religious men to whom the direction of nuns was 
entrusted, and all convents subject to their juris- 

1St. Teresa was not then canonised. [Ed.] 

Upon a Change of Confessor 399 

diction, would do well to observe the excellent rule 
and custom some of them have of never leaving a 
Confessor for more than a year in a convent. 

He added that Superiors should reserve to them- 
selves the power of withdrawing Confessors even 
before the time for which they were appointed had 
expired, and indeed whenever it may please them, 
and should not keep any Confessor longer than the 
time for which he was appointed, unless for some 
very urgent reason or pressing necessity. 

To show you that it was not only to me that 
our Blessed Father expressed his opinion on this 
point, this is how he wrote about it to a Superior 
of the Visitation. 

“ We ought not to be so fickle as to wish without 
any substantial reason to change our Confessor. 
but, on the other hand, we should not be immovable 
and persistent when legitimate causes make such 
a change desirable, and Bishops should not so tie 
their own hands as to be unable to effect the change 
when expedient, and especially when either the 
Sisters or the Spiritual Father desire it.” 


In the year 1619 our Blessed Father went to 
Paris where he remained for eight or nine months. 
I was there at the same time, having been 
summoned for the Advent and Lent sermons. 

Many pious persons came to consult him on their 
spiritual concerns, and thus gave him the oppor- 
tunity of observing the variety of methods employed 
by God to draw souls to Himself, and also the 
different ways in which His Priests guide and direct 
these same souls. 

400 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

Among others, he told me of two priests cele- 
brated for their preaching, and who also applied 
themselves most zealously to the administration of 
the Sacrament of Penance. Both were faithful 
servants of God and exemplary in the discharge of 
their functions, but yet so different in their methods 
of direction, that they almost seemed to oppose 
one another, though both had the one single aim in 
view, namely, to promote the service and the glory 
of God. ‘‘ One of them,” said the Saint, ‘‘ is severe 
and almost terrible in his preaching. He pro- 
claims the judgments of God like the very trump of 
doom. In his special devotions, too, he speaks of 
nothing but mortifications, austerities, constant 
self-examination and such like exercises. Thus, by 
the wholesome fears with which he fills the minds 
of his penitents, he leads them to an exact observ- 
ance of God’s law, and to an anxious solicitude for 
their own salvation. He does not harass them with 
scruples, and yet keeps them in a marvellous state 
of subjection. 

The effect of his direction is that God is greatly 
feared and dreaded by them, that they fly from sin 
as from a serpent, and that they earnestly practise 
virtue. This divine fear is coupled with a high 
esteem for their Director, and a friendship for him, 
holy indeed, but so strong and vehement that it 
seems to these souls as though, were they to lose 
their guide, they must needs go astray. 

The other Director leads souls to God by quite a 
different path. His sermons are always on the love 
of God. He inculcates the study of virtue rather 
than the hatred of vice. He makes his penitents 
love virtue more because it pleases God, than 

Upon Different Methods of Direction 401 

because it is itself worthy of love, and he makes 
them hate vice more because it displeases God than 
because of the sufferings which it brings upon those 
who are slaves to it. 

The effect of this direction is to make souls 
conceive a love for God that is great, pure and dis- 
interested ; also a great affection for their neighbour 
for the love of God; while, as for their sentiments 
towards their Director, they approach him with 
reverential awe, beholding God in him and him in 
God, having no affection for his person beyond that 
due to all our fellow-men.”’ 

Our Blessed Father never told me the name of 
this Director, nor even gave me the slightest hint 
as to who he was, and I therefore sought no further 
explanation, contenting myself with admiring the 
ways of God and His various desires for the good 
of the souls whom He calls to His service. I 
became penetrated, too, with the conviction that by 
many different routes we can reach one and the 
same goal. Let every spirit praise the Lord. 


I asked him one day who was his Director. 
Taking from his pocket the Spiritual Combat, he 
said: “ You see my Director in this book, which, 
from my earliest youth, has, with the help of God, 
taught me and been my master in spiritual 
matters and in the interior life. When I was a 
student at Padua, a Theatine Father instructed and 
gave me advice from it, and following its directions 
all has been well with me. It was written by a 
very holy member of that celebrated congregation, 
the author concealing his own name under that of 


402 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

his Order, which makes use of the book almost in 
the same way as the Jesuits make use of the Exer- 
cises of St. Ignatius Loyola.” 

I reminded, him that in his Philothea* he recom- 
mends people to have a living Director. ‘‘ That is 
true,” he answered, ‘‘ but have you not noticed 
that I say he must be chosen out of ten thousand ?! 
Because there is scarcely one in a thousand to be 
found having all the qualities necessary for this 
office, or who, if he has them, displays them con- 
stantly and perseveringly; men being so variable 
that they never remain in one state, as Holy Scrip- 
ture assures us.’’+ 

I asked him if we must then run uncertainly and 
pursue our way without guidance. He answered: 
‘“ We must seek it among the dead; among those 
who are no longer subject to passion or change, 
and who have ceased to be swayed by human 
interests. Asan Emperor of old said that his most 
faithful counsellors were the dead, meaning books, 
so we may Say that our safest spiritual directors 
are books of piety.” 

“ But what,’’ I asked, ‘‘ are those who cannot 
read to do?” “They,” he replied, “f must have 
good books read to them by people in whom they 
can have absolute confidence. Besides, such 
simple souls as these do not, as a rule, trouble 
themselves much about methods of devotion, or, if 
they do, God for the most part bestows on them 
such graces as to make it plain that He Himself 
is their Teacher, and that they are truly Theodidacts, 
or taught by God.” 

*Book 1. c. 10. fJob xiv. 2. 
1This hyperbole of St. Francis is sometimes pushed to excess. 
It T question, too, if M. Camus always understood him rightly. 

Advice upon Having a Director 403 

‘“ Must we then,” I asked, ‘‘ give up all spiritual 
guides?” ‘‘ By no means,’’ he answered, “ for 
besides the fact that we are bound to obey the law 
of God coming to us through our Superiors, both 
spiritual and temporal, we must also defer most 
humbly to our Confessors, to whom we lay bare 
the secrets of our conscience. Then, when we find 
difficulties in the books which we have chosen for 
our guidance, difficulties which, as we read, we 
cannot settle to our satisfaction, we must consult 
those who are well versed in mystic language, or 
rather, I should say, in spiritual matters, and listen 
humbly to their opinion. We must not, however, 
always consult the same man; for, besides the fact 
that Holy Scripture warns us that there 1s safety 
where there is much counsel,* we must remember 
that if we always consulted the same living oracle, 
he would in time become superior to the dead one; 
that he would make himself a supplanter, a second 
Jacob, pushing aside the book which we had 
chosen for our guide, and assuming dominion and 
mastery over both dead and living, that is, over 
the book and the reader who had chosen it for his 
direction. To prevent this encroachment, I had 
almost said this unfelt and imperceptibly increas- 
ing tyranny, it is well when we meet with diffi- 
culties to consult several persons, following the 
advice given by the Holy Ghost through the 
Apostle St. Paul not to make ourselves the slaves 
of men, having been delivered and redeemed at so 
great a price, even that of the Precious Blood of 
Jesus Christ.’ 

In answer to my remark that I very much pre- 
ferred as a book The Imitation of Christ to the 

"Prov. si. 1%. 1: Cor. Vil. 23. 

404 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

Spiritual Combat, he said that they were both the 
works of writers truly animated by the Spirit of 
God, that they were indeed different in many 
respects, but that it might be said of each of them 
as it is of the Saints: There was not found the 
like to him.* 

He added that in such matters comparisons were 
always more or less odious; that beauty, however 
it might vary, was always beauty; that the book 
of the Imitation had in some respects great advan- 
tages over the Combat, but that the latter had also 
some advantages over the Imitation. Among 
these he mentioned with special commendation its 
arrangement and that it goes deeper into things 
and more thoroughly to the root of the matter. He 
concluded by saying that we should do well to read 
the one and not neglect the other, for that both 
books were so short that to do this would not put 
us to much expenditure of time or trouble. 

He valued the Imitation, he said, greatly for its 
brevity and conciseness as an aid to prayer and 
contemplation, but the Combat as a help in active 
and practical life. 


Zeal was a virtue which Blessed Francis ever 
regarded with a certain amount of suspicion. “It 
is,” he used to say, ‘‘ generally speaking, impetu- 
ous, and although it strives to exterminate vice by 
reproving sinners, it is apt, if not guided by 
moderation and prudence, to produce most 
disastrous effects. 

There is a zeal so bitter and fierce that it pardons 

*Eccle. xliv. 20. 

Upon True and Mistaken Zeal 405 

nothing, exaggerates the smallest faults, and, like 
an unskilful physician, only makes the disease of 
the soul more serious. There is zeal of another 
kind, which is so lax and weakly tender, that st 
forgives everything, thinking in so doing to 
practise charity, which is patient and kind, seeks 
not her own, and bears all wrongs done to her even 
joyfully; but such zeal, too, is quite mistaken, for 
true charity cannot endure without grief any wrong 
done to God, that is to say, anything contrary to 
His honour and glory. 

True zeal must be accompanied by knowledge 
and judgment. It pardons certain things, or, at 
least, winks at them, until the right time and place 
are come for correcting them; it reproves others 
when it sees there is hope of amendment, leaving 
no stone unturned when it thinks there is a possi- 
bility of preserving or advancing the glory of God. 

It is certain that zeal tempered with gentleness is 
far more efficacious than that which is turbulent 
and boisterous. This is why the Prophet, wishing 
to demonstrate the power of the Messiah to bring 
the whole universe under the sweet yoke of obedi- 
ence to Him, does not speak of Him as the Lion 
of the Tribe of Juda, but as the Lamb, the Ruler 
of the Earth. The Psalmist says the very same 
thing in a few words: Mildness is come upon us, 
and we shall be corrected.” 

I was complaining one day to our Saint of injuries 
which I had suffered through the mistaken zeal of 
some persons of eminent virtue, and he replied 
thus: ‘f Do you not know that the best honey is 
made by the bees which have the sharpest sting ? ” 
It is true, indeed, that nothing hurts us so much as 

406 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

wrong done by those on whose support we reckoned, 
as David knew well when he said: ‘‘ For if my 
enemy had reviled me, I would verily have borne 
with it, and if he that hated me had spoken great 
things against me, I would perhaps have hidden 
myself from him, but thou, a man of one mind, my 
guide, and my familiar—who together didst take 
sweet meats with me: in the house of God wé walkéd 
with consent.’’* 

‘f Consider,” the Saint went on to say, ‘“‘ by 
whom Jesus Christ was betrayed.’’ Listen to the 
words spoken by him through the mouth of His 
Prophet, spoken moreover of His most sacred 
wounds, ‘‘ With these I was wounded in the house 
of them that loved me.’’+ 

And, after all, is not hope always at the bottom 
of Pandora’s box? Virtuous people carried away 
by this mistaken zeal, will, directly their eyes are 
opened, only too gladly recognise the truth, and 
will love you more than ever. Pray to God to 
enlighten them and to deliver you from the attacks 
of calumny. And if the worst comes to the worst, 
is it not the duty of a true Christian to bless those 
who curse him, to pray for those who persecute 
him, and to render good for evil, provided he really 
wishes to bea faithful child of the Heavenly Father, 
who makes His sun to shine, and His rain to fall, 
on the wicked as well as on the good.{ 

Let your sighs and lamentations be breathed 
softly into the ear of God alone, saying to Him: 

“They will curse, and Thou wilt bless, and they 
that look to Thee shall not be confounded.§ 

*Psalm liv. 13-16. a 
tZach. xiii. 6. {Matt. v. 44-45. §Psalm cviii. 28. 

Upon the Institution of the Visitation, £c. 407 


When he instituted the Congregation of the 
Visitation of Holy Mary in the town of Annecy, 
where he resided, he had no intention either of 
multiplying Religious Houses or of forming a new 
Order or Institute with vows, of which he said there 
were already enough in the Church. His idea was 
to form an assembly of devout widows and maidens, 
free and unbound either by monastic vows or enclo- 
sure, who should, in their house, occupy themselves 
with prayer and manual labour, only going out for 
two objects, namely, to discharge their own domes- 
tic duties or to perform works of mercy done for 
their neighbour to the glory of God. Those who 
embraced this mode of life practised it with such 
success that not only the town of Annecy, but all 
the country round felt the influence of their holy 
life, and was greatly edified by their example; while 
the sick and poor, whom they visited in their dis- 
tress, were both consoled and relieved by them. 

Later on, these holy women formed a little settle- 
ment at Lyons, but not to the satisfaction of the 
then Archbishop, afterwards Cardinal, de Marque- 
mont. This Prelate, although a person of much 
excellence, having lived the greater part of his life 
in Rome, where he was Auditor to the Rota, was 
so thoroughly imbued with all the Italian maxims 
as to the management of women that he could not 
endure their living thus without vows or enclosure. 
He therefore not only advised, but even urged our 
Blessed Father to insist upon their choosing some 
one of the monastic Rules approved by the Church, 
and upon their taking perpetual vows, and 

408 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

preserving an inviolable enclosure. Our Blessed 
Father, who was extremely pliable, condescending, 
and ready to yield to the will of others, allowed 
himself to be persuaded by this great Prelate. 

The Archbishop then promised that he would 
submit to the approbation of Rome the Constitu- 
tions which the holy Bishop had prepared for the 
guidance of this simple community, provided that 
they were in accordance with the Rule of St. 

Our Blessed Father also induced his dear 
daughters to lay aside their original manner of 
life in order to embrace this second, which took the 
shape of an Order properly so called, having per- 
petual vows. 

Since this change he has often told me that the 
Congregation owed its establishment simply to the 
providence and ordering of God, Whose Spirit 
breathes where He wills, and Who effects changes 
with His own right hand when it pleases Him; and 
Whose own perfection it is which makes His works 
admirable in our eyes. 

‘“ As for me,” he once said to me, ‘‘I am filled 
with astonishment when I reflect that, alone and 
unaided, but with extraordinary calmness of mind, 
I have done what I wished to undo, and undone 
what I wished to do.” 

“ What do you mean by that?” I asked. And 
he replied: ‘“ I never thought for a moment of 
forming a Religious Order, being of opinion that 
their number is already amply sufficient. No, I 
only intended to gather together a little company 
of maidens and widows without solemn vows and 
without enclosure, having no wealth, but that of 

Upon the Institution of the Visitation, dc. 409 

holy charity, which is indeed all silk and gold, and 
is the great bond which unites all Christians, the 
true bond of all perfection, the bond of the Spirit 
of God, the spirit of holy and absolute liberty.’’ 
He went on to say that their occupation had 
hitherto been, as I have already told you, prayer, 
manual labour, and visiting the sick and destitute. 
“ I fear,” he added, ‘‘ that there will be quite an 
uproar in the little town when, under the new 
system, their vows and enclosure oblige them to 
abandon their works of mercy. Indeed, I gave their 
Order the title of the Visitation of Holy Mary that 
they might take for their pattern in their visits to 
the sick, that visit which the Blessed Virgin paid 
to her cousin St. Elizabeth, with whom she dwelt 
for three months, to help her and to wait upon her. 
Now that they are enclosed, they will be rather 
visited than visitors; but since the holy providence 
of God so orders it, may that providence be for 
ever blessed.” All that I have just told you is 
clearly expressed in the letter written by him on the 
subject of the change to Cardinal Bellarmine, which 
can be seen in the volume of his letters. In remem- 
brance, as it were, of his first design, he expresses 
his desire to obtain from the Holy See, through the 
intervention of the great Cardinal, three privileges 
for this Institution. The first, that it should only 
be obliged to recite the office of the Blessed Virgin. 
The second, that widows should be allowed to be 
received and to live there, wearing their secular 
dress, without taking any vows, and with power to 
come out if at any time the necessity of their affairs 
should oblige them to do so. The third, that even 
married women should be allowed to enter, and to 

410 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

remain for a short time with the permission of their 
husbands and of the Spiritual Father, without being 
either Benefactresses or Foundresses. The letter 
justifies all this, and is full of beautiful and sensible 
reasons for it. I know also that during his life- 
time, when the twelve first Houses of the Order 
were established, he saw that in them all those rules 
were carried out. 

I cannot here refrain from quoting for you a 
passage from Cardinal Bellarmine’s reply to the 
letter written to him by our Blessed Father on this 
subject. It shows very plainly how highly that 
good and learned Prelate approved of the first 
design for the constitution of this Order, and how 
little he favoured the change of plan, which has, 
nevertheless, we must admit, redounded greatly to 
the glory of God and to the edification of the whole 

The Cardinal says in this letter: ‘‘ I will give you 
the same advice as I should take for myself were 
I in similar circumstances. I should then keep 
these maidens and widows exactly as they are at 
present, not making any change in a state of things 
which is so admirable. For, before the time of 
Boniface VIII. there were consecrated persons in 
the Church, the Eastern as well as the Western, 
mentioned by the Fathers. Among the Latins, St. 
Cyprian, St. Ambrose, S. Jerome, and St. Augus- 
tine; among the Greeks, St. Athanasius, St. 
Chrysostom, St. Basil, and many others; but they 
were not enclosed in their convents in such a 
manner that they could not come out of them when 
necessary. And your most Reverend Lordship is 
aware that simple vows are no less binding and are 

Upon the Institution of the Visitation, dc. 411 

of no Jess merit in the sight of God than solemn 
ones. Indeed, the solemnizing of vows, as well as 
the rule of Enclosure, was originated by an 
ecclesiastical decree of the said Boniface VIII. 
Even at the present day, the convent of noble 
ladies, founded by St. Frances of Rome, flourishes 
in that city, although without any enclosure or 
solemn profession. Therefore, if in your country 
maidens and widows live in so holy a manner, with- 
out being either cloistered or enclosed, and are 
able thus to be of use to those in the world, I do 
not see why their mode of living should be 

What our Blessed Father dreaded for the Institute 
was what happens to those Institutes which fail in 
exactitude of observance. And he often quoted 
Saint Bernard’s saying that though devotion had 
given birth to riches, these unnatural daughters 
had stifled their mother. Whenever he heard of 
any House established in his time beginning to 
complain of want of comforts or conveniences he 
would say: ‘‘ One day they will have only too 
many.’ All his letters are full of exhortations 
to put up with discomforts, and to lean upon 
Providence, casting all care upon God, Who feeds 
the young ravens, satisfies the hunger of all flesh, 
and fills every living creature with blessings. 
Wealth, not poverty, was what he feared for his 
Order. This is what he says in the Constitutions: 
““ For the more perfect observance of the holy virtue 
of poverty, when once the buildings of the convents 
are finished, the revenues shall be limited according 
to the place where each convent is situated, to the 
end that even in this a proper mean may be kept, 

412 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

and that there be no superfluity of goods in the 
Community, but only a fair sufficiency, and when 
this is once attained nothing further shall be taken 
for the reception of the Sisters coming to it, but 
what shall be requisite to keep up and maintain well 
the just competency of the convent.* 

And in the letter which he wrote to the most 
Serene Infanta, Margaret of Sovoy, Dowager 
Duchess of Mantua, to invite her to take this Con- 
gregati n under her protection, he says: 

‘This Congregation does not solicit alms, but 
is established in such a manner that the ladies who 
enter it give a dowry in order to maintain the 
buildings, the sacristy, the chaplain, and to defray 
the expenses of illness, etc., either by means of a 
regular and perpetual income, or by some other 
way which cannot injure anyone or interefere in 
any possible manner with the payment of the taxes 
and subsidies due to his most Serene Highness the 
Duke. I hope also that the above-mentioned Con- 
gregation will in a few years’ time be endowed with 
revenues sufficient for the support of the Com- 
munity. Thus widows without children, and young 
girls who desire to serve God in chastity, obedience, 
and poverty, will have every facility for entering it, 
since they will be received without any other pay- 
ment than that of a dowry or pension provided by 
their family for their support.’’ 


On one occasion, some one speaking to him, my 
eg of your ‘‘ Congregation,” said: ‘* But what 
*Constitution 5. 

His Defence of his New Congregation, £c. 413 

do you mean to do with all this crowd of women 
and maidens? Of what use will they be to the 
Church of God? Are there not already enough of 
such institutions into which these applicants might 
be drafted? Would you not be doing better if you 
were to establish some College for the training and 
education of Priests, and spend your time on them 
instead of on these persons to whom one must 
repeat a thing a hundred times before they can 
retain it? And then, after all, if they do, it is a 
treasure buried, a candlestick under a bushel. Is 
it not a case of painting on water and sowing on 
sand ?”’ 

Our Blessed Father, smiling graciously, 
answered with his extraordinary serenity and sweet- 
ness: “‘It is not for me to work with costly 
materials; goldsmiths handle the precious metals, 
potters only clay. Believe me, God is a skilled 
workman; with poor tools He can accomplish 
wonderful work. He is wont to choose weak things 
to confound the strong; ignorance to confound 
knowledge, and that which is nothing to confound 
that which seems to be something. What did He 
not do with a rod in the hand of Moses? With 
the jaw-bone of an ass in that of Samson? With 
what did He vanquish Holofernes? Was it not 
by the hand of a woman? When He willed to 
create the world, out of what did He form it, save 
nothingness? Believe me, great fires are often 
kindled from small sparks. Where was the sacred 
fire found when the Jews returned from their 
captivity among the Medes? In a little mud! 

This weaker sex is deserving of being treated with 
great tenderness: we must take much more care of 

414 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

it than we do of the stronger one. St. Bernard 
says that the charge of souls is for the weak far 
more than for the strong. Our Lord never refused 
His assistance to women. He was generally 
followed by several of them, and they did not for- 
sake Him on the Cross, where he was abandoned 
by all His disciples excepting His beloved John. 
The Church who gives the title of devout to this 
sex does not hold it in such low estimation as 
you do. 

Besides, do you reckon as nothing the good 
example which they may set wherever God calls 
them? Is it unimportant in your opinion to be a 
sweet odour in Jesus Christ, an odour of life 
eternal? Of the two requisites for a good pastor, 
precept and example, which think you is the most 
estimable? For my part I think more of an ounce 
of example than of a hundred pounds’ weight of 
precept. Without a good life doctrine turns into 
scandal; it is like a church bell, it calls others, but 
itself never goes in; hence the reproach: Physician, 
heal thyself. 

Even if holy women only served as perfumes for 
the Church they would not be useless. A great 
deal of incense is employed by her in her cere- 

It is true that there are, as you say, a great many 
other Congregations already in the Church, into 
which some of those who are enrolled in this new 
one might enter; but there are, besides, many in 
the Visitation who, on account of their age or 
infirmities, or because of their feebleness of consti- 
tution, though they be young, are quite incapable 
of enduring the bodily austerities imposed by other 

His Defence of his New Congregation, £c. 415 

Orders, and therefore cannot be admitted into them. 
If we receive into this one some who are strong and 
healthy, it is that they may wait upon the weak and 
delicate, for whom this Congregation has chiefly 
been instituted, and to put in practice that holy com- 
mand: Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so you 
Shall fulfil the law of Christ.* 

As for your exhortation to me to think about form- 
ing a Congregation of Priests, do you not see that 
that is already planned by M. de Berulle, a great 
and faithful servant of God, who has far more capa- 
city for the work, and much more leisure also, than 
I can get? Remember how heavily burdened I am 
with the charge of a diocese, in which is situated 
such a place as Geneva, the very fountain-head of 
the errors which are troubling the whole Church. 
In conclusion, let us leave great designs to great 
workmen. God will do what He pleases with my 
little plan.” 


Our Blessed Father held in the very highest 
esteem the odour of sanctity, and revered those who 
by their good example shed it abroad through the 
world, not for their own glory, but for the glory of 

On another occasion when some morose and cap- 
tious person was finding fault with the Visitation 
Order, and after taking exception to it because of 
its newness, wound up by saying to Blessed Fran- 
cis, ‘“‘ And then of what use will it be to the 
Church?’’ The holy Prelate answered pleasantly : 
“To play the part of the Queen of Sheba.” And 

* Gal. vi. 2. 

416 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

what part is that ?’’ returned the man. ‘‘ To render 
homage to Him who is greater than Solomon, and 
to fill the whole militant Jerusalem with perfumes 
and sweet odours.”’ 

In one of his Conferences he expresses the same 
thought as follows: “‘In my opinion the divine 
Majesty has made choice of you to go forth as per- 
fume-bearers, seeing that He has commissioned you 
to go and scatter far and wide the sweet odours of 
the virtues of your Institute. And as young 
maidens love sweet odours (for the Bride in the 
Canticle of Canticles says that the name of her 
Beloved is as oil, or balm, shedding on all sides 
the sweetest perfumes, and therefore, she adds, the 
young maidens have followed Him, attracted by His 
divine perfumes), so do you, my dear sisters, as 
perfume-bearers of the Divine Goodness, go forth, 
shedding all around the incomparable sweetness of 
sincere humility, gentleness, and charity, so that 
many young maidens may be attracted thereby, and 
may embrace your manner of life, and that they may 
even in this world enjoy, like you, a holy loving 
peace and tranquillity of soul, and in the world to 
come eternal happiness.” 


On one occasion when the Sisters of the Visitation 
had made a foundation in a city famous for the piety 
of its inhabitants and in which there were already a 
number of Religious Houses highly esteemed for 
external austerities and severe discipline, they met 
with much criticism and even harsh treatment on 
account of their own gentler and apparently easier 

He Rebukes Pharisaism 417 

In the end, they made known to Blessed Francis 
what they had to put up with. 

I ought, perhaps, to say that, among other ill- 
natured remarks, they had been reproached with 
having strewn a path of roses to lead them to 
Heaven, and with having brought our Saviour 
down from the Cross; meaning that they did not 
practise many corporal austerities. Those who 
said this quite forgot the fact that this Order of the 
Visitation was founded for the reception and con- 
solation largely of women, whether young or old, 
weak in bodily health, though strong and healthy 
in mind, whose feeble frames could not support the 
external rigour demanded by other Communities. 

Our Blessed Father, as I told you, having heard 
from letters addressed to him by the Superior, of 
the harsh treatment and sufferings of his poor 
daughters, wrote to her several times on the subject. 
The following words of his are especially remark- 
able for their beauty : 

‘““ Beware, my daughter, of replying in any way 
whatever to these good Sisters, or to their friends 
in the world, unless, indeed, you do so with unalter- 
able humility, gentleness, and sweetness. Do not 
defend yourselves,* for such is the express com- 
mand of the Holy Ghost. If they despise your 
Order because it appears to them inferior to theirs, 
they violate the law of charity, which does not 
permit the strong to despise the weak, or the great 
the small. Granted that they are superior to you, 
do the Seraphim despise the little Angels, or the 
great Saints in Paradise, those of inferior, nay, of 
the lowest rank? Oh, my dear daughter, who- 

*Rom. xii. 19. 

418 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

ever loves God the most will be the most loved by 
Him, and will be the most glorious up in Heaven. 
Do not distress yourself, the prize is awarded to 
those who love.” 


Speaking of Superiors, I may tell youthat Blessed 
Francis divided them into four classes. ‘‘ First,” 
he said, ‘‘ there are those who are very indulgent to 
others, and also to themselves. Secondly, there 
are those who are severe to others, and equally so 
to themselves. Thirdly, there are some who are 
indulgent to their subordinates and rigid to them- 
selves. Fourthly, there are those who are indul- 
gent to themselves and rigorous to others.” 

He condemned the first as careless and criminal 
persons, heedless of their duties: they abandon the 
ship they should pilot, to the mercy of the waves. 

A Superior of the seeond kind often spoils every- 
thing precisely because he wishes to do too much, 
and falls into those exaggerations which have lent 
truth to the saying, “ Absolute right is absolute 
injustice.” ‘‘ He who would rule well,’’ runs an 
ancient aphorism, ‘‘ must rule with a slack hand.” 
We must not hold our horse’s bridle over tightly, 
for though we may save him from stumbling we 
hinder him even from walking. 

Superiors of the third class are better because they 
put a kindly construction upon the faults and in- 
firmities of others less known to them, as ‘they 
necessarily are, than their own. This is the reason 
why they are severe to themselves and indulgent to 
others—a line of conduct which generally meets 
with the approval of their subjects. The latter are 

Upon Religious Superiors 419 

the more edified because they see their Superiors 
observing those very laws from which they have 
dispensed them. It is just so with the laity: they 
are mostly more anxious about the morals of their 
clergy than they are about their own. 

Superiors of the fourth and last kind are truly 
unfaithful servants. They resemble those 
Pharisees who laid on the shoulders of other men 
heavy burdens which they themselves would not 
touch with the tip of their finger. 

Our Blessed Father wished that all these four 
classes could be merged in a fifth, that of which the 
watchword should be holy equality according to 
that precept both of nature and of the Gospel: ‘‘ Do 
to others as you would be done by; treat others as 
you would wish to be treated yourself, and treat 
yourself as you know you ought to be treated.’ In 
fact, since each man is to himself his nearest neigh- 
bour, we all recognise the injustice of demanding 
in the life of others what we do not practise in our 
own. To command others to do what we do not 
ourselves do is to be like Urias, who carried his own 
condemnation and death-warrant in his bosom. 

One day, in his presence, I was praising a certain 
Superior for his extreme goodness, gentleness, 
patience, and condescension, which attracted all 
hearts to him, just as flies are attracted to a honey- 
comb. He answered, ‘‘ Goodness is not good when 
it puts up with evil; on the contrary, it is bad when 
it allows evils to go on which it can, and should, 
prevent. Gentleness in such a case is not gentle- 
ness, but weakness and cowardice. Patience in 
such a case is not patience, but absolute stupidity. 

When we suffer evil which we could prevent, we 

420 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

do not merely tolerate but become accomplices in 
wrong-doing. I am of opinion that subjects are 
made good by bad, I mean, by harsh and disagree- 
able Superiors. The severity of a mother is more 
wholesome for a child than the petting of an in- 
dulgent nurse, and the firmness of a father is always 
more useful to his children than their mother’s 
tenderness. The rougher the file the better it 
smoothes the iron, and the more rust it rubs off; 
the hotter the iron, the better the surface it gives 

to the cloth.’ He related with regard to this 
subject an anecdote which will both please and 
profit you. 

The head of a certain Religious Order, which 
was at the time undergoing a vigorous reform, had, 
with the consent of the Provincial Chapter, estab- 
lished a Novitate House which was to serve as the 
one only Seminary for the whole province. It was 
decided that no novice should be clothed until he 
had been examined by three Fathers of the Order 
appointed for that purpose. The first was to 
enquire into the birth and condition of those who 
presented themselves for examination, the second 
into their literary capacity, and the third into their 
manner of life and vocation. This last, in order to 
get a firm grip on the pulse of the postulants, and 
to sound their vocation to the very quick almost 
always asked them if they would have courage and 
patience enough to put up with bad Superiors, bad 
in the extreme, cruel, rude, peevish, choleric, 
melancholy, captious, pitiless, those, in a word, 
whom they would find it impossible to please or 

Some, evading the question, replied that there 

Upon Religious Superiors 421 

could be none such in the Order, or, at least, would 
not be suffered to remain in office, seeing that it 
was governed with so much gentleness and 
benignity, and that its yoke was so sweet and desir- 
able. The examiner, who did not like evasive and 
ambiguous replies of this sort, determined to get 
an answer that should be straight-forward and to 
the point. Taking a much sterner.tone, he repre- 
sented a Superior to them asa sort of slave-driver: 
a man who would govern his subjects by blows and 
Stripes, and who yet would expect them to drink 
this chalice of bitterness as if offered to their lips 
by the hand of God. 

Some of the postulants fearing the test, became 
pale or crimson with agitation, and either answered 
nothing, showing by their silence that they could 
not swallow the pill, or, if they answered at all, 
declared that they could not believe he was speaking 
seriously, and that they were not galley-slaves. 

These he dismissed at once as unfit to be received 
into the Order. 

Others, however, full of courage and constancy, 
still answered, that they were prepared for any ill- 
treatment, and that nothing could deter them from 
Carrying out their God-inspiring resolution. That 
no creature, however cruel and however unfeeling, 
could separate them from the love of Jesus Christ, 
nor from Hisservice. These the examining Father 
received with open arms into the bosom of the 

You may judge from this how skilful was this 
master of novices in hewing, hammering, and 
cutting the stones he was endeavouring to fit for 
the spiritual edifice of the Order. Our Blessed 

422 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

Father himself, in spite of all the sweetness and 
gentleness of his natural disposition, did not fail 
to follow this plan to a certain extent, representing 
to all who came to him, desiring to enter into 
religion, the interior and spiritual crosses which 
they must resolve to carry all their life long, not 
the least heavy of which, and at the same time not 
the least useful in helping them to make great 
advance in perfection would perhaps be the severity 
of Superiors. 


A certain community having had their Superior 
taken from them on account of their complaints of 
the severity of his rule, and having a new one set 
over them in his place, came to Blessed Francis to 
pour out their grievances on the subject of their 
recently appointed head. They declared that he 
was an ignorant man. ‘‘ What is to be done with 
you ?” cried our Blessed Father, ‘“‘ you remind me 
of the frogs to whom Jupiter could not give a king 
who was to their taste. We ought certainly to 
wish to have good and capable Superiors, but still 
whatever they may be we must put up with them.”’ 
One of the complainers was so wanting in discre- 
tion as to say that their one-eyed horse had been 
changed intoa blind one. Blessed Francis suffered 
this jest to pass, merely frowning slightly, but his 
modest silence only unchained the tongue of 
another scoffer who presumed to say that an ass had 
been given to them instead of a horse. Then Blessed 
Francis spoke, and, rebuking this last speech, 
added in a tone of gentle remonstrance, that the 
first remark, though far from being respectful, was 

Upon Unlearned Superiors 423 

more endurable because it was a proverb and 
implied that a Superior had been given to them who 
was less capable than his predecessor, and that this 
was expressed in figurative terms, as David speaks 
of himself in relation to Almighty God in one of 
the Psalms when he says: I am become as a beast 
before Thee.* ‘‘ The second sarcasm, however,” 
he added, ‘‘has nothing figurative in it, and is 
absolutely and grossly insulting. We must never 
speak of our Superiors in such a manner, however 
worthless they may be. Remember that God would 
have us obey even the vicious and froward,f and he 
that resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of 
Gad .””t 

Then taking up the defence of this much-abused 
Superior, ‘‘ Do you imagine,” he said, ‘“‘ that it is 
not within the power of God to exalt in a moment 
one who is poor in spirit by bestowing on him the 
gift of intelligence? Is not He the God of know- 
ledge? Is it not He who imparts it to men? Are 
not all the faithful taught of God? 

The science of the Saints is the science of Salva- 
tion, and this is a knowledge more frequently given 
to those who are destitute of the knowledge which 
puffs up. In what condition think you was Saul 
when God raised him to the throne of Israel ? 

He was keeping his father’s asses. On what did 
Jesus Christ ride triumphant on Palm Sunday? 
Was it not upon an ass?” 

Again, in his eleventh Conference, he says: ‘‘ If 
Balaam was well instructed by an ass, we may with 
greater reason believe that God, Who gave you this 
Superior, will enable him to teach you according to 

*; Peter ii. Ye, Rom. xiii. 2. 

424 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

His will, though it may not be according to your 

He wound up his remarks on the subject of the 
new Superior by saying: ‘‘ I understand that this 
good man is most gentle and kind, and that if he 
does not know much he does none the less well, so 
that his example makes up for any deficiency in his 
teaching. It is far better to have a Superior who 
does the good which he fails in teaching, than one 
who tells us what we ought to do, but does not 
himself practise it.” 


You know, my Sisters, with what circumspection 
and prudence our Blessed Father moved in the 
matter of foundations. During the last thirteen 
years of his life, in which he established your Con- 
gregation, he only accepted twelve convents and 
refused three times as many, saying, as was his 
wont, ‘‘ Few and good.’’ He was always very 
particular about the Superiors to whom he com- 
mitted the charge of monastic houses, knowing the 
immense importance of such choice and its influence 
upon all the members of a Religious family. 

He was fond of comparing a convent to a bee- 
hive, and in one of his Conferences applies this 
comparison to your own Order as follows :—‘‘ Your 
Congregation,” he says, ‘‘ is like a bee-hive which 
has already sent forth various swarms: but with 
this difference, that when bees go forth to settle in 
another hive and to begin a new household each 
swarm chooses a particular queen under whom they 
live and dwell apart. 

You, my dear souls, though you may go into a 


Upon the Founding of Convents 425 

new hive, that is, begin a new house of your Order, 
have always only one and the same King, our 
crucified Lord, under Whose authority you will 
live secure and safe wherever you may be. Do not 
fear that anything will be wanting to you, for, as 
long as you do not choose any other King He will 
ever be with you; only take great care to grow in 
love and fidelity to His divine goodness, keeping as 
close to Him as possible. Thus all will be well with 
you. Learn from Him all that you will have to 
do; do nothing without His counsel, for He is the 
faithful Friend who will guide you and govern 
you and take care of you, as with all my heart I 
beseech Him to do.* 

Very often I urged him to consent to certain 
foundations which it was proposed to make, but 
He always gave me some good reason for refusing. 

It was not without trouble and difficulty that we 
obtained a little colony for Belley. He often said 
to me: “The Sisters are as yet but novices in 
piety, they must be left to grow a little stronger ; 
have patience, for we shall be doing quite enough 
if the little we do is what pleases our divine Master. 
It is better for them to grow at the roots by virtue 
rather than in the branches by forming new houses. 
Will they, do you think, be more perfect because 
they have more convents? ” 


Regarding the reception of the infirm, he might 

have exclaimed with St. Paul: Who is weak and I 

am not weak? Blessed Francis shared largely in 

this spirit, so much did he love the infirm, whether 
*Conf,. 6. 

426 The Sprit of St. Francis De Sales 

of body or of mind. He loved the poor in spirit; 
poor, that is, whether in earthly goods or in the 
wisdom of the world, and he used to say that their 
simplicity was a soil suitable for the planting of 
all sorts of virtues, that it would yield much fruit 
in due season. He was of opinion that during the 
year of Novitiate established in all communities 
preparatory to the embracing of religious life, too 
much attention was paid to the consideration of 
infirmities, both spiritual and corporal, just as if 
convents were not in reality so many hospitals for 
healing the diseases of body and mind. Hence, he 
added, came the name of Therapeutes, that is, 
curers, healers, or operators, formerly given to 

It is true that there are certain bodily diseases 
which from the fact of their being infectious 
necessitate the separation of such as are afflicted 
with them from the healthy. So also there are 
spiritual maladies, such as incompatibility of temper 
and incorrigibility of defects, which may make it 
proper to refuse those who are thus disqualified for 
entering Religion, just as in former days, persons 
suffering from these disabilities could be dismissed 
even after Profession. 

In one of his letters he thus expresses his feeling 
for the infirm: ‘‘ I am,” he says, ‘‘a great partisan 
of the infirm and am always afraid lest the incon- 
veniences to which they must naturally put the 
Community should excite a spirit of human 
prudence in our convents and banish the spirit of 
charity in which our Congregation was founded, 
and which is our safest guide in selecting our 
Sisters. I take, then, the side of your infirm appli- 

Upon Self-Pity 427 

cant, and provided that she be humble and ready 
to recognise and appreciate your charity, you must 
receive the poor girl; it will be a constant oppor- 
tunity for the Sisters to practise the holy virtue 
of loving-kindness. 

Upon SELrFr-PItTy. 

Gentle and compassionate as his disposition was, 
full of tenderness, and sympathy for the feeble and 
the frail, Blessed Francis was nevertheless strict 
and severe in his dealings with those whom he knew 
to be too lenient to themselves, either in temporal or 
Spiritual matters. 

He who practised so much severity in his own 
case, assuredly had the right to advise others to 
do as much, and especially, like him, to refrain from 
complaining at the inconveniences and sufferings 
endured in time of sickness. He succeeded in 
inspiring his Daughters of the Visitation with his 
spirit, teaching them that true christian patience, 
which is neither apathy nor insensibility, nor the 
dull stupid endurance of the Stoics; but a sweet 
and reasonable submission to the Will of God, 
coupled with cheerful obedience to the physician 
whom He commands us to honour, and a grateful 
acceptance of the remedies prescribed for us. 


It was never his opinion that nuns should be 
under the jurisdiction and guidance of other 
Religious, especially of those of their own Order. 

For this he alleged several very weighty reasons, 

428 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

which I have been careful to bear in mind that I 
may impart them to you at the right time and place. 

For the present, however, I will content myself 
with reading you one of his letters, and with after- 
wards making a little comment upon it. 

“I observe,” he says, ‘“‘ that many influential 
people are inclined to think that Religious Houses 
should be under the authority of the Ordinaries, 
according to the old rule revived lately throughout 
almost the whole of Italy; whilst others would 
have them to be under Superiors of their own 
Order, comformably to a custom introduced about 
four or five hundred years ago, and almost univer- 
sally observed in France. For my own part, I 
confess that I cannot bring myself to adopt the 
view of those who desire that convents of women 
should be placed under the guidance of Religious 
men, still less of the Fathers of their own Order. 
And in this I feel that I am of the same mind as 
the Holy See, which always, where it can be reason- 
ably brought about, opposes itself to the govern- 
ment of nuns by Regulars. 

I do not say that such government is not some- 
times advantageous, even at the present day, but 
I do say that it would be far better if in general it 
were done away with. And this for many reasons. 

It seems to me that it is no more difficult for the 
Pope to exempt the nuns of any Order from the 
jurisdiction of the Fathers of that same Order, than 
it is for him to exempt monasteries from the juris- 
diction of their Ordinary, a procedure inspired no 
doubt by the most excellent motives, and that has 
been carried out successfully for so many centuries. 

The Pope has, as a matter of fact, kept our own 

Upon the Government of Nuns, dc. 429 

nuns in France under the rule of the Bishops, and 
it appears to me that these same good nuns do not 
know what is good for them when they seek to be 
transferred to the jurisdiction of a Religious Order, 
seeing that Regular Superiors are apt to be a little 
rigorous in the exercise of their authority, and to 
deprive those under them of holy liberty of spirit.” 

I would call your attention to the fact mentioned 
by our Blessed Father that almost everywhere in 
Italy the nuns are under the guidance and juris- 
diction of the Bishops. Of this I was myself an 
eye-witness, and I noticed at Florence, that out of 
fifty convents, only four are not under the juris- 
diction and direction of the Archbishop. 

I would also remind you that the Holy Apostolic 
See has, as far as possible, and for many reasons, 
revived this ancient form of government of nuns. 
That these reasons exist it is well to bear in mind, 
though it may not always be prudent to urge them 
in public. 

Again, if in former times it was thought advis- 
able to exempt nuns from the guidance and juris- 
diction of their Ordinaries, or Diocesan Pastors, at 
the present day there are far more weighty reasons 
for replacing them under the authority of the 
Bishops, and for taking from the Regulars this 
exceptional jurisdiction. 

This is exactly what our Blessed Father thought 
about the matter. Remember then always that to 
put convents under the Bishops is to bring things 
back to their first and purest state, for as regards 
exemption we can assuredly say that from the 
beginning it was not so. 

It seems, too, to me, that nuns who desire the 

430 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

guidance of Monks, especially of Fathers of their 
own Order, are true daughters of Zebedee; they 
know not what they ask, nor what they want, nor 
what they are doing. 

Tuar WE Must Not BE WEDDED TO Our Own 

Our Blessed Father used to praise very highly 
the conduct of Blessed John of Avila as having been 
prompted by great strength of mind, and extra- 
ordinary forgetfulness of self in that his zeal made 
him not only love his neighbour as himself but 
even more than himself. I will give you an in- 
stance of this in Francis’ own words, addressed to 
Theotimus: ‘‘ The Blessed Ignatius of Loyola, 
having with such pains set up the company of 
Jesus, which he saw produced many fair fruits, and 
foresaw many more that would ripen in time to 
come, had, nevertheless, the nobleness of soul to 
resolve that, though he should see it dissolved 
(which would be the bitterest pain which could 
befall him) within half an hour afterwards, he would 
be stayed and tranquil in the Will of God. John 
of Avila, that holy and learned preacher of 
Andalusia, having a design to form a company of 
reformed Priests for the advancement of God’s 
glory, and having already made good progress in 
the matter, as soon as he saw the Jesuits in the 
field, thinking they were enough for that time, 
immediately, with incomparable meekness and 
humility, renounced his own undertaking. Oh, 
how blessed are such souls, bold and strong in the 
undertakings God proposes to them, and withal 
tractable and facile in giving them up when God 

That We Must Not be Wedded, dc. 431 

so disposes. It is a mark of a most perfect In- 
difference to leave off doing a good work when God 
pleases, and to return, our journey half accomplished 
when God’s Will, which is our guide, so ordains.’’* 
I may tell you, my Sisters, that you have only to 
change the name of John of Avila into that of the 
Blessed Francis de Sales, and you can apply to an 
event in his life these very words. I know that he 
had in his mind a scheme of forming a Congrega- 
tion of Priests, not bound by monastic vows, some- 
thing on the pattern of your Order of the Visitation 
in its beginning; but, of course, conformable to the 
calling of the Priesthood. Hearing, however, that 
Pierre de Berulle, that faithful servant of God, 
afterwards a Cardinal, had established the Congre- 
gation of the French Oratory, now so greatly 
distinguished for its piety and learning, he aban- 
doned his enterprise, rejoicing that God should 
have given this holy commission to one less busy 
than himself, and therefore more capable of 
ordering all things in this holy Society, and thus 
promoting the glory of God. I have said, that he 
meant to take the Visitation as a model of this 
projected Congregation of Priests, intending them 
to develop, and to prosper side by side. I must 
add, however, that even before the formation of 
your Congregation he had made an attempt in the 
same direction by drawing together a little company 
of hermits on the gloomy but holy mountain of 
Notre Dame de Voiron, and preparing for them 
laws and constitutions in the observance of which 
they haved lived with great sanctity ever since. 
You know also that his zeal was so condescending 

*Dook ix. chap. 6. 

432 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

in its nature, and that he was so little wedded to 
his own opinions, that, though the Visitation had 
flourished for four or five years with great edifica- 
tion to others as well as to itself, yet as soon as His 
Grace the Archbishop of Lyons, afterwards Car- 
dinal de Marquemont, had represented to him that 
it would better for it to be re-constructed with 
vows and enclosures like other Orders, he con- 
sented to change its whole constitution. 

Speaking of great works undertaken for the glory 
of God, which, owing to the illness or death of 
their founder or head, sometimes seem in danger of 
falling to the ground, Blessed Francis said: “‘ There 
are some undertakings which God wishes to be 
begun indeed by us, but completed by others. 
Thus David gathered together materials for the 
temple which his son Solomon built. St. Francis, 
St. Dominic, St. Ignatius Loyola, sighed for the 
grace of martyrdom, and sought for it by all 
possible means, yet God would not crown them with 
it, contenting Himself with the offering of their 

To submit ourselves simply and cheerfully to the 
Will of God in the failure of undertakings which 
concern His glory is an act of no small resignation.” 


It is certain that two great Pontiffs, Clement 
VIII. and Paul V., held Blessed Francis in the 
highest possible esteem. Paul V. more than once 
when speaking to me dwelt upon his merit, and said 
how suitable and indeed how necessary such a 
Bishop was for a diocese like that of Geneva. 

Regarding Ecclesiastical Dignities 433 

We know, too, that the same Pope often thought 
of raising him to the dignity of Cardinal. Our 
Blessed Father was himself well aware of this, and 
mentioned it in letters written to his confidential 
friends, some of which have since been published. 

It is probable that the fact that this honour was 
never conferred upon him was owing to the 
political difficulties which beset the Supreme Pontiff 
in these matters. 

Puzzled at his not receiving the hat, I one day 
expressed to him my great surprise at the delay. 
“ Why,” he answered, “‘ can you really think this 
dignity would in any way conduce to my serving 
our Lord and His Church better than Ican now do? 
Would Rome, which would be the place of my 
residence, afford me more opportunities for so 
doing, than this post in which God has placed me? 
Should I have more work there, more enemies to 
fight against, more souls to direct, more cares, more 
pious exercises, more visits to make, or more 
pastoral functions to discharge ?”’ | 

“You would enter,” I replied, ‘‘ into the solici- 
tude of all the churches; and from the direction of 
one particular Church you would be promoted to 
share in the care of the Universal Church, becom- 
ing, as it were, the co-assessor of the Holy See.” 
** Nevertheless,” he replied, ‘‘ you see Cardinals of 
our own day, who when they were Bishops and had 
dioceses were distinguished for their piety, quit 
their residence at Rome, which is only theirs by a 
positive and ecclesiastical law, in order to return 
to their flocks among which the law of God has 
fixed their homes, bidding them watch over these 
flocks and feed and guide the souls entrusted to 


434 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

He then told me a memorable circumstance con- 
cerning the great Cardinal Bellarmine of saintly 
memory. That Prelate was promoted to the 
dignity, unknown to himself and against his will, 
by Clement VIII. Under the pontificate of Paul 
V., who succeeded Leo XI., he was promoted to 
the Archbishopric of Capua, again contrary to his 
own wishes, but by the desire of the Pope. He 
bowed beneath this yoke, but not until he had 
remonstrated with the Holy Father, who, in reply, 
simply commanded him to take upon himself the 
episcopal charge. 

Immediately after his consecration he prepared 
to take up his residence at Capua. The Pope, who 
desired his services at Rome, sent for him, and 
asked him if he was quite resolved to live in his 
diocese. The Cardinal replied that he was, because 
unwillingly as he had accepted this charge he had 
done so with the conviction that his Holiness felt 
he could dispense with his services at Rome, nor 
would otherwise have placed him over the diocese 
of Capua. The Pope replied that he would dispense 
him from residing in his diocese. ‘* Holy Father,” 
he answered, ‘‘that is not what I have been 
teaching in the schools all my life. I have always 
held that the residence of Bishops in their diocese 
is commanded by the law of God, and that there- 
fore they cannot be dispensed from observing it.” 
‘“ At least,” returned the Pope, “‘ give us half the 
year.” ‘‘And during those six months,” replied 
Bellarmine, ‘‘ at whose hands will the blood of the 
lost sheep of my flock be required?” ‘‘ Then, at 
least, three months,” pleaded the Pope. The 
Cardinal gave the same answer as he had given 

Regarding Ecclesiastical Dignities 435 

about the six, and, in fact, soon took his departure 
for Capua, where he remained in uninterrupted 
residence for three years, in the course of which 
time, as a relaxation from the labours of his office, 
he wrote his beautiful Commentary on the Psalms. 

Such was the high value set by the holy Cardinal 
upon the residence of a Bishop among his flock: 
and St. Charles Borromeo, and more recently 
his worthy successor, Cardinal Borromeo, have 
been as uncompromising as Bellarmine was. 
As for our Blessed Father, he only valued the 
honours and dignities of the Church and of the 
world in proportion as they afford means for 
serving God and advancing His glory. This was 
the golden standard with which he measured the 
holy City of Jerusalem. 


Although in the life of our Blessed Father his 
promotion to the Bishopric of Geneva is described 
at great length, yet, in my opinion, the subject has 
been treated very superficially, and no attempt has 
been made to give a full account of the matter. 

The truth is that the Saint had all his life but 
one aim in regard to the following out of his holy 
vocation, namely, to serve God in whatever sacred 
office he might be called to fill. He had passed 
through all the various ecclesiastical offices of 
Canon, Parish Priest, Provost, Dean of the 
Cathedral Church, Preacher, Confessor, and 
Missionary, when M. de Granier, at that time 
Bishop of Geneva, inspired by God, desired to make 

436 The Sprit of St. Francis De Sales 

him his successor. In this, as in all other matters, 
our Saint recognised the inspiration, and with a 
single eye, that saw God only, committed himself 
entirely to His providence. 

He did nothing at all either to hinder or to further 
the design, leaving it all to M. de Granier, who 
obtained the consent of the Duke of Savoy to 
propose Francis to his Holiness. It was, however, 
a condition that he should at once present himself 
at Rome to be examined in full Consistory. He 
was therefore obliged to undertake the journey 
thither. This journey, as we know, is fairly well 
described by the writers of his life. They tell also 
of his success, and of the approval bestowed upon 
him by Pope Clement, who used the inspired words : 
Drink water out of thine own cistern, and the 
streams of thine own well. Let thy fountains be 
conveyed abroad, and in the streets divide thy 
waters (*). From so excellent a vocation what but 
good results could be expected? A good tree 
cannot bear evil fruit. We know well how 
worthily Blessed Francis walked in the vocation to 
which he had been called, and how the light of 
his holy life, like the dawn of morning, shone 
more and more unto the perfect day. 

In the year 1619, having come to Paris with the 
Princes of Savoy, he remained there for eight 
months, during which time it is impossible to give’ 
any idea of all that he did for the glory of God 
and the good of souls. The eyes of all men in this 
great theatre were turned upon him, as were those 
of the Romans upon Cato, when one day he showed 
himself in their assembly. 

*Prov. v. 15, 16. 

His Promotion to the Bishopric, &c. 487 

It was not only by the people of Paris that he 
was thought so much of, but also by their pastor, 
the Cardinal de Retz (Peter de Gondi), a Prelate of 
incomparable gentleness, benignity, liberality, 
modesty, and every other deligtitful quality. The 
sweet attractive grace of Blessed Francis’ manners 
and conversation produced such an effect upon 
him that he at once desired to make him his 
coadjutor, with right of succession. 

Not expecting any opposition from the holy 
Bishop, and having gained the consent of the 
King, he thought that nothing remained to be 
done but to carry out the formalities prescribed by 
the Roman Congregations. Francis, however, 
with marvellous adroitness, warded off the blow, 
leaving the great Cardinal penetrated with admira- 
tion of his virtue if without the satisfaction of 
gaining his compliance. 

Among the various reasons for this refusal which 
are to be found in his letters, one or two please me 
especially. For instance, he said that he did not 
think he ought to change a poor wife for a rich 
one; and again, that if he did ever quit his spouse 
it would not be to take another, but in order not 
to have one at all, following the Apostolic counsel : 
Art thou bound to a wife, seek not to be loosed. 
Art thou loosed from a wife, seek not a wife.* 

It is true that honours and dignities are but 
trifles; yet to despise and refuse them is not a 
trifling thing. It is easy to disdain them from a 
distance, but difficult to deal with them face to face, 
and either to quit them when we possess them, or 
to refuse them when they are offered. Blessed 1s 
the rich man that is found without blemish, and 

™; Cor. Vii. 27. 

438 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

that hath not gone after gold nor put his trust in 
money, nor in treasures. Who is he? and we will 
praise him, for he hath done wonderful things in 
his life.™ 

Such a one, my Sisters, believe me, was your 
Father and mine, my preserver and your i'ounder, 
Blessed Francis de Sales. 


Good digestions assimilate all kinds of food, 
and convert it into wholesome nourishment, and so 
in like manner holy souls turn all that they meet 
with into material for instruction and into help 
towards their eternal profit. Thus, the great St. 
Anthony, saw the Creator on every page of the book 
of nature and in all living creatures. The tiniest 
flower, growing and blossoming at his feet, raised 
his thoughts to Him Who is the Flower of the 
Field and the Lily of the Valley, the Blossom 
springing from the root of Jesse. 

Those who are smitten by some passionate 
human love are so absolutely possessed by it that 
they think of nothing else, and since their tongue 
speaks out of the abundance of their heart this is 
their one subject of conversation, all others being 
distasteful to them. They write the name of the 
beloved object on rocks and trees, and wherever 
they can they leave behind them some carved token 
or emblem of their affection. 

Just so was it with our Blessed Father. His 
delight was to make all subjects of conversation, all 
incidents that might occur, further in one way or 
another the glory of God, and kindle His divine 

Eccle. xxxi. 8, 9. 

A Bishop’s Care for His Flock 439 

love in the hearts of others. On one occasion, 
when he was visiting that part of his diocese which 
lies among the lofty and bleak mountains of 
Faucigny, where it is always winter, he heard that 
a poor cowherd had lost his life by falling over a 
steep precipice while trying to save one of his herd. 
From this incident he drew a marvellous lesson 
upon the care which a Bishop ought to take of 
the flock entrusted to his charge by God, showing 
that he ought to be ready to sacrifice even life 
itself for its salvation. He thus relates the incident, 
and gives his comments on it in one of his letters. 

‘‘ During the past few days I have seen moun- 
tains, terrible in their grandeur, covered with 
ice ten or twelve inches thick; and the inhabitants 
of the neighbouring valleys told me that a herds- 
man going out to try and recover a cow which had 
strayed away fell over a precipice from a height of 
thirty feet, and was found frozen to death at the 
bottom. Oh, God! I cried, and was the ardour 
of this poor herdsman in his search for the beast 
that had strayed, so burning that even the cold 
of those frozen heights could not chill it? Why, 
then, am I so slothful and lax in the quest after my 
wandering sheep? This thought filled my heart 
with grief, yet in no wise melted its frozen surface. 
I saw in this region many wonderful sights. The 
valleys were full of happy homesteads, the moun- 
tains coated with ice and snow. Like the fertile 
and smiling valleys, the village mothers play 
their homely part, while a Bishop, raised to such 
a lofty eminence in the Church of God, remains 
ice-bound as the mountains. Ah! will there never 
rise a sun with rays powerful enough to melt this 

440 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

ice which freezes me!’’ What zeal for souls, what 
humility, what holy fervour breathe in these words! 


‘“ Being a Bishop,” he used to say to me, ‘‘ you 
are at the same time a superintendent, sentinel, 
and overseer in the House of God, for this is what 
the word Bishop means. It is then your part to 
watch over and guard your whole diocese, making 
continual supplications, crying aloud day and 
night like a watchman on the walls, as the prophet 
bids you do, knowing that you have to render 
an account to the great Father of the family of 
all the souls committed to your care. 

But especially you ought to watch over two 
classes of people who are the heads of all the 
others, namely, the Parish Priests and the fathers 
of families, for they are the source of most of the 
good and of most of the evil which is to be found in 
parishes or households. 

From the instruction and good example given by 
Parish Priests, who are the shepherds of the flock, 
proceeds all the advance of that flock in knowledge 
and virtue. They are like the rods of which Jacob 
made use to give the colours he wanted to the 
fleeces of the lambs. Teaching does much, but 
example does incomparably more. It is the same 
with fathers and mothers of families: on their 
words, but still more on their conduct, depends all 
the welfare of their households. 

As Bishop you are the master-builder, the 
superintendent. It is your duty then to watch over 
the leaders of your flock and over those who, like 
Saul, are a head taller than the rest. Through 

Upon the Pastoral Charge 441 

them healing and blessing flows down upon others, 
even as Aaron’s ointment descended from his head 
to the very hem of his garment. 

This is why you ought continually to exhort 
and instruct, in season and out of season, for you 
are the Parish Priest of all Parish Priests, and the 
Father of all Fathers of families.” 


On one occasion I was complaining to him of 
the difficulties which I met with in the discharge 
of my episcopal duties. He replied that on 
entering the service of God we must prepare ort- 
selves for temptation, since no one could follow 
Jesus Christ or be of the number of His true 
disciples except by bearing His Cross, nor could 
anyone enter Heaven except by the path and 
through the gate of suffering. ‘‘ Remember,” he 
said, “‘that our first father even in the state of inno- 
cence was put into the earthly Paradise to work in 
it and to keep it. Do you imagine that he was 
banished from it in order to do nothing? Consider 
how God condemned him and all his posterity to 
labour, and to till an ungrateful earth which pro- 
duced of itself nothing but thorns and thistles. 
There is much more toil and difficulty in weeding 
and cultivating souls than any earthly soil, rough, 
stony, and barren though it may be. The art of 
arts is the direction of souls, it is of no use to 
undertake it unless we have made up our minds to 
innumerable labours and disappointments. 

The Son of God being a sign of contradiction, 
can we wonder if His work is exposed to the same; 

442 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

and if He had so much difficulty in winning souls, 
is it likely that his coadjutors and those who 
labour with Him will have less ?” 

Then fearing to depress me by the enumeration 
of so many difficulties, he went on to cheer me with 
the example of the Prince of Pastors, the Bishop 
of our souls, the Author and Finisher of our faith, 
who preferred shame and toil to joy, that He might 
further the work of our salvation. 

He added that of the Apostles, and other Pastors 
of the Church, reminding me that if we think much 
of the honour of being their successors we must, 
with the inheritance, accept its burdens, nor shelter 
ourselves by, in legal phrase, disclaiming liability 
for debts beyond the assets inherited. Otherwise, he 
said, we should be like that kinsman of Ruth who 
wished to have the inheritance of the first husband, 
but not to marry the widow and raise up to him an 

He generally wound up his remarks with some 
reminder of that love which makes all that is bitter 
to be sweet: sometimes quoting to me those words 
of St. Augustine, ‘‘ Where we love, there is no 
labour, or if there is any we love the labour itself, 
for he who labours in loving, loves to labour for 
the beloved object.” 


A Priest once complained to Blessed Francis of 
the thorns besetting his path in life, of the diff- 
culties of his holy calling, of the anxieties insepar- 
able from it, but chiefly of the intractableness of 
stiff-necked Christia..s, who refuse to submit to the 
easy yoke of Jesus Christ, and to do what their duty 

Upon the Care of Souls 443 

requires. The Bishop replied that their obstinacy 
was not so much to be wondered at as the weak- 
ness of their Pastors who were so easily dis- 
couraged and impatient, just because they saw that 
the seed sown by their labours did not forthwith 
produce the plentiful harvest they desired. 

‘“ The peasant is not blamed for failing to reap 
an abundant harvest, but only for not carefully 
cultivating his field, and for not doing all that is 
necessary to make his land productive. Dis- 
couragement is a mark of excessive love of self and 
of zeal unaccompanied by knowledge. 

The best lesson for those who have the care of 
souls, is that which the Apostle gives to all in the 
person of one: Preach the word: be instant in 
season and out of season: reprove, entreat, rebuke 
in all patience and doctrine.* 

In this text the word patience is the key to the 
whole mystery, for patience has its perfect work 
when it is accompanied by charity, which is 
patient, kind, and is the virtue by which we possess 
our souls in peace.” 

The charge of souls means having to bear with 
the weak, for the strong are able to go on by them- 
selves in their progress towards what is good. 
Our holy Bishop explained this by two beautiful 
similitudes: ‘‘ The plumage of birds is heavy, and 
yet without this load they could neither raise them- 
selves from the ground nor hover in the air. The 
burden borne by holy souls is like a load of 
cinnamon, which, by its perfume invigorates him 
who carries it. So souls which are weak serve to 
make their Pastors, who bear the burden of them, 

som. iv) 2. 

444 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

rise On wings towards Heaven, and on earth to 
run in the way of God’s commandments.’’ 

The other comparison is this: ‘‘ Notice,” he said, 
‘‘a shepherd driving a flock of sheep: if one of 
them breaks a leg the shepherd at once takes it on 
his shoulders to carry it back to the fold, and this 
single one is certainly a heavier load than all the 
rest together, who go along of themselves. In 
like manner souls which of themselves advance in 
the way of God afford little occasion for their 
Pastors to exercise care and vigilance. It 
is of the faulty and intractable they have 
chiefly to think. St. Bernard says that the care 
of souls is not a care of the strong, but of the 
infirm, for if any one helps thee more than he is 
helped by thee, know that thou art not his father 
but his equal.” 

Even the prophets complain of men of obstinate 
and rebellious hearts. To work among them is 
to go down to the sea in ships and to do our 
business in great waters, for these waters are God’s 
people with whom we have to deal. 


By rights, the more learned a man becomes the 
more pious should he be. This does not, however, 
always happen, and if we must choose between the 
two, there is no doubt that it is better to be un- 
educated but pious, rather than to be learned with- 
out being religious-minded. 

Blessed Francis remarked one day when we were 
speaking of a Parish Priest whose holy life was 
highly praised, but with whose defects as a teacher 
great fault was found: ‘‘ It is quite true that know- 

U pon Learning and Piety 445 

ledge and piety are, as it were, the two eyes of a 
Priest; still, as a man can, by dispensation, receive 
Holy Orders even though he has only one eye, so 
also it is quite possible for a Parish Priest to be a 
most faithful servant in his ministry by simply 
leading a zealous, exemplary, and well-regulated 
life. The function of teaching may be discharged 
by others, who, as St. Paul says, are instructors 
but not fathers.* But no one can be a pattern to 
others except by giving good example, and this 
cannot be done by proxy. 

Besides, the Gospel tells us that we are to pluck 
out the eye which offends. It is better to enter 
heaven with one eye, than to be cast into hell-fire 
with two.t ‘‘ There is, indeed,” he continued, “a 
degree of ignorance so gross as to be inexcusable 
and to render him who is plunged into it in very 
truth a blind leader of the blind. When, how- 
ever, a man is in good repute for his piety he surely 
has within him that true light which leads him to 
Jesus Christ and enables him to show light to 
others. It is as though he said to them, like 
Gideon, Do as I do, or with St. Paul, Be ye 
followers of me, as I also am of Christ.t Sucha 
one does not walk in darkness and those who follow 
him are sure to reach the haven. Though he has 
not talents of learning and erudition such as would 
make him shine in the pulpit, vet he has enough 
if he can, as the Apostle savs, exhort in sound 
doctrine and convince the gainsayers.§ Remark,” 
he added, “how God taught Balaam by the mouth 
of his ass.’ Thus, his charity dexterously covered 
the defects of his neighbour, and by this lesson 

*: Cor. iv. 15. tMatt. xviii 9. $e Cor. iv. 16. 
§Tit. . 9. 

446 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

he taught us to value an ounce of piety more than 
many pounds of empty learning. 

His SEE. 

When I was consulting him once as to whether 
or not I should follow the bent of my own inclina- 
tion in the matter of retiring into a private and 
solitary life, he, wishing to ascertain by what 
spirit I was led, answered me in the beautiful words 
of St. Augustine: Otium sanctum diligit charitas 
veritatis, et negotium justum suscipit veritas 
charitatis.* Charity, the holy love of eternal 
truth, draws us into retirement, that we may in 
that calm leisure contemplate things divine; but 
when our hearts are filled with true charity we 
are none the less urged to undertake good works 
in order to advance the glory of God by serving 
our neighbour. 

Although he esteemed Mary’s part—called in 
the Gospel ‘‘ the better part ’’—much more highly 
than Martha’s, yet it was his opinion that Martha’s, 
undertaken purely for the love of God, was more 
suitable to this present life, and that Mary’s had 
more in common with that of a blessed eternity. 
He only made an exception as regards some special 
and extraordinary vocations, some irresistible and 
most powerful attractions, acting upon the soul, and 
in the case of those who do not possess the talents 
requisite for serving as Martha served, and have 
only those suitable for a purely contemplative life. 
Also those who, having expended all their physical 
strength in the service of the Church, withdraw 
into solitude towards the close of their life, there 

* De Civit. Dei. Lib. 19. cap. 109. 

Adwce to Bishop Camus, £e. 447 

to prepare for that last journey which is ordained 
for all flesh. 

For this reason he repulsed and silenced me— 
not indeed harshly, for his incomparable sweetness 
was incompatible with harshness—but firmly and 
decidedly whenever I spoke to him of quitting my 
post and of resigning the helm into the hand of 
some more skilful pilot. He called my desire to 
do so a temptation, and in the end closed the dis- 
cussion so peremptorily that, during his lifetime, 
I never ventured to revive it with anyone. 

He dealt in almost exactly the same manner with 
that virtuous soul* the corner-stone of the spiritual 
edifice of the Congregation of the Visitation which 
he founded, for he kept her in the world for more 
than seven years, bringing up and educating the 
children whom God had given her and affording 
spiritual help to her father and father-in-law. He 
kept her back, I say, for this long period, before 
permitting her to retire into the solitude of the 
cloister; so exact was he in himself following, and 
in leading those who were under his direction to 
follow, the holy light of faith rather than the false 
and lurid glimmers of their natural inclinations. 

On a previous occasion a certain Bishop whom I 
knew well asked him whether in his opinion it 
would be allowable for him to give up his Bishopric 
with its heavy burdens and retire into private life, 
bringing forward as an example St. Gregory of 
Nazianzen, surnamed the Theologian, the oracle 
of his time, who gave up the charge of three 
Bishoprics, Sozima, Nazianzen, and the Patri- 
archate of Constantinople, that he might go and 

*St. Jane Frances de Chantal. 

448 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

end his days in rural life, on his paternal estate of 

Our Blessed Father replied that we must pre- 
sume that these great Saints never did anything 
without being moved to do it by the Spirit of God, 
and that we must not judge of their actions by 
outward appearances. He added that St. Gregory 
in quitting Constantinople was only yielding to 
pressure and violence, as is proved by the manner 
in which he said his last Mass in public, and which 
brought tears into the eyes of all who heard him. 

This same Bishop replying that the greatness of 
his own charge terrified him, and that he was over- 
powered by the thought of having to answer for 
so‘many souls: ‘“‘ Alas!’” said Blessed Francis, 
‘what would you say, or do, if you had such a 
burden as mine on your shoulders? And yet that 
must not lessen my confidence in the mercy of 

The Bishop sitll complaining and declaring that 
he was like a candle which consumes itself in order 
to give light to others, and that he was so much 
taken up with the service of his neighbour that he 
had scarcely any leisure to think of himself and to 
look after the welfare of his own soul, our Blessed 
Father replied: ‘‘ Well, considering that the 
eternal welfare of your neighbour is a part, and 
so large a part, of your own, are you not securing 
the latter by attending to the former? And how, 
indeed, could you possibly work out your own 
salvation except by furthering that of others, 
seeing that you have been called to do so precisely 
in this manner? ” 

The Bishop still objecting and saying that he 

Advice to Bishop Camus, ce. 449 

was like a whetstone which is worn out by the mere 
sharpening of blades, and that while trying to lead 
others to holiness he ran the risk of losing his own 
soul, our Holy Prelate rejoined: ‘‘ Read the 
history of the Church and the lives of the Saints, 
and you will find more Saints among Bishops than 
in any other Order or avocation, there being no 
other position in the Church of God which fur- 
nishes such abundant means of sanctification and 
perfection. For remember that the best means of 
making progress in perfection is the teaching 
others both by word and example. Bishops are 
by their very office compelled to do this and to 
Strive with all their heart and soul to be a pattern 
and model to their flocks. The whole life of a 
Christian on earth is a warfare, and should be one 
unceasing progress towards the goal of perfection. 
Were you to do as you propose it would be ina 
manner to look behind you, and to imitate the 
children of Ephraim, who turned back when they 
should have faced the enemy. You were going on 
so well, who is it who is holding you back? Stay 
in the ship in which God has placed you to make 
the voyage of life; the passage is so short that it 
is not worth while changing the boat. For, indeed, 
if you feel giddy in a large vessel, how much 
more so will you in a slight skiff tossed by every 
motion of the waves! A lower condition of life, 
though less busy and apparently more tranquil, is 
none the less equally subject to temptation.”’ 

This reasoning so convinced the Bishop! that 
he remained faithful to his post in the army of 
Holy Church. 

1 This Bishop was evidently M. Camus himself. [Ed.] 

450 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 


So light-hearted and gay was he, so truly did his 
happy face express the serenity and peace of his 
soul that it was almost impossible to remain for 
any time in his company without catching some- 
thing of this joyous spirit. 

I feel sure that only those of dull and gloomy 
temperament can take exception to what I am 
going to relate in order to illustrate our Blessed 
Father’s delightful gift of pleasantry in conversa- 

On one occasion when I was paying a visit to 
him at Annecy two young girls, sisters, and both 
most virtuous and most devout, were professed in 
one of the convents, he performing the ceremony, 
and I, by his desire, giving the exhortation. While 
preaching, although I said nothing to my mind 
very heart-stirring, I noticed that a venerable Priest 
who was prcsent was so much affected as to 
attract the attention of everyone. After the cere- 
mony, when we were breakfasting with the holy 
Bishop, the Priest being also at table, I asked 
Blessed Francis what had been the cause of such 
emotion. He replied that it was not to be 
wondered at seeing that this good Priest had lost 
his aureola, and had been reduced from the high 
rank of a martyr to the lowly one of a Confessor! 

He went on to explain that the Priest had been 
married, but that on the death of his wife, who 
was a most saintly woman, he had become a Priest, 
and that all the children of that happy marriage 
had been so piously brought up that every one of 
them had devoted himself or herself to the service 

The Joyous Spirit of Blessed Francis 451 

of the Altar, the young girls just professed being 
of the number. 

The tears shed by the Priest were therefore of 
joy, not of sorrow, for he saw his most ardent 
desire fulfilled, and that his daughters were now 
the Brides of the Lamb. “But,” I cried, ‘‘ what 
did you mean by saying that a man married to 
such a wife as that was a Martyr? That may be 
the case when a man has a bad wife, but it cannot 
be true in his case.” 

Our Blessed Father’s manner changed at once 
from gaiety to seriousness. ‘‘ Take care,” he 
said to me in a low voice, ‘‘that the same thing 
does not happen to you; I will tell you how, by- 
and-by, in private.” 

When we were alone afterwards I reminded him 
of his promise. ‘‘ Take care,” he said again with 
some severity of aspect, ‘‘lest if you yield to the 
temptation which is now assailing you something 
worse does not befall you.” He was alluding to 
my desire to give up the burden of my Bishopric 
and to retire into more private life. 

““ Your wife,” he went on to say, meaning the 
Church, whose ring when he consecrated me he had 
put on my finger, “‘is far more holy, far more able 
to make you holy than was that good man’s faithful 
wife, whose memory is blessed. It is true that 
the many spiritual children whom she lays in your 
arms are a cause of so much anxiety that your 
whole life is a species of martyrdom, but remember 
that in this most bitter bitterness you will find 
peace for your soul, the peace of God which is 
beyond all thought or imagination. If you quit 
your place in order to seek repose, possibly God 

452 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

will permit your pretended tranquillity to be dis- 
turbed by as many vexations as the good brother 
Leone’s, who, amid all his household cares in 
the monastery, was often visited by heavenly con- 
solations. Of these he was deprived when, by 
permission extorted from his Superior, he had 
retired into his cell in order, as he said, to give 
himself up more absolutely to contemplation. 
Know (Oh! how deeply these words are engraven 
on my memory) that God hates the peace of those 
whom He had destined for war. 

He is the God of armies and of battles, as well 
as of peace, and he compares the Sulamite, the 
peaceful soul, toan army drawn up in battle array 
and in that formation terrible to its enemies.” I 
may add that our Blessed Father’s predictions were 
perfectly verified, and after his death when the 
very things he had spoken of happened to me I 
remembered his words with tears. 

As I write I call to mind another instance of his 
delightful manner which you will like to hear. 

Young as I was when consecrated a Bishop, 
it was his desire that I should discharge all the 
duties of my holy office without leaving out any 
single one of them, although I was inclined to 
make one exception, that of hearing confessions. 
I considered myself too young for this most 
responsible work, and wanting in that prudence 
and wisdom which are born of experience. 

Our Blessed Father, however, thought differ- 
ently in the matter, and I, holding this judgment 
in so much higher esteem than my own, gave way, 
bent my neck under the yoke, and took my place 
in the confessional. There I was besieged by 

Upon Daily Mass. His Advice, £c. 453 

penitents, who scarcely allowed me any time for 
rest or refreshment. 

One day, worn out with this labour, I wrote to 
St. Francis, saying, among other things, that 
intending to make a Confessor he had really made 
a Martyr. 

In answering my letter he said that he knew well 
that the vehemence of my spirit suffered the pangs 
of a woman in travail, but then I must take 
courage and remember that it is written, a woman 
when she is in labour hath sorrow because her 
hour is come; but when she hath brought forth the 
child she remembereth no more the anguish for joy 
that a man is born into the world.* 

Upon Darry Mass. His ADVICE TO A YOUNG 

To a Priest whom I know well, and whom our 
Blessed Father loved much in Our Lord, he gave 
most excellent advice, and ina very kindly manner, 
conveyed it to him by means of an ingenious 

The Priest was young, and owing to his extreme 
youth, although he was a Parish Priest, he 
dreaded saying Mass often, contenting himself 
with doing so on Sundays and holidays. 

Our Blessed Father, wishing to lead him to say 
his Mass every day, devised this plan. He pre- 
sented him with a little box covered with crimson 
satin, embroidered in gold and silver and studded 
with pearls and garnets. Before he actually put 
it into his hands, however, he said to him, ‘‘ I have 

*John xvi. 21. 
1Possibly M. Camus himself. [Ed.} 

454 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

a favour to ask of you which I am sure you will 
not refuse me, since it only concerns the glory of 
God, which I know you have so much at heart.” 
“I am at your command,” replied the Priest. 
“Oh, no,” said the Bishop, ‘‘ I am not speaking 
to you as one who commands, but as one who 
requests, and I make this request in the name 
and for the love of God, which is our common 
watchword.’’ After that, what could the Priest 
possibly refuse him? His silence testified his 
readiness to obey, better than any words could have 

Blessed Francis then opening the box showed 
him that it was quite full of unconsecrated hosts, 
and said, ‘* You are a Priest, God has called you 
to that vocation, and also to the Pastoral Office 
in His Church. Would it be the right thing if 
an artisan, a magistrate, or a doctor only worked 
at his profession one or two days in the week? 
You have the power to say Holy Mass every day. 
Why do you not avail yourself of it? 

Consider that the action of saying Mass is the 
loftiest, the most august, of all the functions of 
religion, the one which renders more glory to God 
and more solace to the living and the dead than 
any other. 

I conjure you, then, by the glory of Him in whom 
we live and move and have our being, to approach 
the Altar every day, and never, except under 
extreme necessity, to fail to do so. 

There is nothing, thank God, to prevent your 
doing this. I know your soul as well as a soul 
can be known, and of this you are yourself quite 
aware, you who have so frankly unfolded to me the 

Upon Daily Mass. His Advice, dc. 455 

inmost recesses of your conscience. Far from 
seeing any impediment, I see that everything invites 
you to do what I ask, and that you may so use the 
daily and supersubstantial Bread I make you this 
present, entreating you not to forget at the holy 
Altar him who makes you this prayer on the part 
of God Himself.” 

The young Priest was somewhat surprised, and 
without attempting to evade the implied rebuke 
contented himself with submitting to the judgment 
of the holy Bishop his secret unworthiness, his 
youth, his unmortified passions, his fear of mis- 
using so divine a mystery by not living as they 
should live who each day offer it up. 

“All this excusing yourself, replied our Blessed 
Father, is only so much self-accusing as would 
appear if I chose to examine your reasons in detail 
and weigh them in the scales of the sanctuary. 
But without entering into any discussion of them 
let it suffice that you refer the matter to my judg- 
ment. I tell you then, and in this I think that I 
have the Spirit of God, that all the reasons which 
you bring forward to dispense yourself from so 
profitable an exercise of piety are really those which 
oblige you to practise it. This holy exercise will 
ripen your youth, moderate your passions, weaken 
your temptations, strengthen your weakness, 
illuminate your path, and the very act of practising 
it will teach you to do so with greater perfection. 
Moreover, if the sense of your unworthiness would 
make you abstain from it out of humility, as 
happened to St. Bonaventure, and if your own 
unfitness makes the custom of daily celebrating 
productive in your soul of less fruit than it should, 

456 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

consider that you are a public person, and that your 
flock and your Church have need of your daily 
Mass. More than that, you ought to be 
stimulated and spurred on by the thought that 
every day on which you refrain from celebrating 
you deprive the exterior glory of God of increase, 
the Angels of their delight, and the Blessed of a 
most special happiness.” 

The young Priest deferred to this counsel, 
saying “‘ Fiat, fiat, and from that time for a space 
of thirty years has never failed to say Mass daily, 
even when on long journeys through France, 
Italy, Spain, Germany, and in heretical countries. 
He never failed, I repeat, even under conditions 
which seemed to make the saying of Mass im- 

Such power have remonstrances when tem- 
pered with kindness and prudence. 


He was told that I was very lengthy in my pre- 
paration for saying Holy Mass, and that this was 
a cause of inconvenience to many who either wished 
to be present at it or to speak to me afterwards. 
I was accustomed, by his orders, to say daily 
Mass at a fixed hour, and not in the private chapel 
of the Bishop’s house, unless I happened to be ill, 
but in a large chapel adjoining the Cathedral 
Church, where synods, ordinations, and similar 
pastoral functions were held. The bell rang for 
this Mass always at a few minutes before the 
appointed hour, but those who knew the length of 
my preparation in the sacristy did not hurry to 

A Priest Saying Mass, &c. 457 

come to it, and those who did not know lost 
patience, and in winter time often got chilled to 
the bone. 

Our Blessed Father, wishing to correct this fault 
in me, waited quietly till the right moment came 
for doing so. He was paying me one of his 
annual visits at Belley, when it chanced that one 
morning he was detained very late in his room 
writing some letters which he had to send off with- 
out loss of time. When eleven o’clock drew near, 
his servants, knowing that he never failed to say 
Mass unless hindered by illness or some real im- 
pediment, came to remind him that he had not yet 
done so. 

The Altar in the private Chapel had been pre- 
pared for him. He came out of his room, wearing 
as usual his rochet and mosetta, and after saluting 
those who had come to see him and to hear his 
Mass, said a short prayer at the foot of the Altar, 
then vested and celebrated the holy sacrifice. Mass 
ended, he knelt down again, and, after another 
short prayer, joined us with a face of angelic 
serenity. Having greeted each of us affectionately, 
he entered into conversation with us, until we were 
called, as we soon were, to table. I, who watched 
his actions most closely and ever found them regu- 
lar and harmonious as a stave of music, was amazed 
at the brevity of this preparation and thanksgiving, 
In the evening, therefore, when we were alone 
together, I said, using the filial privilege which I 
knew was mine, ‘‘ Father, it seemed to me this 
morning that your preparation for Mass and your 
thanksgiving were very hasty and short.” 

He turned suddenly, and, embracing me, ex- 

458 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

claimed, ‘‘Oh, how delighted I am that you are 
so straightforward in telling me home truths! For 
three or four days I have been wanting to do the 
same thing to you, but did not know how to begin! 
Now, tell me what do you say as to that lengthiness 
of yours which inconveniences everybody? All 
complain, and quite openly, though possibly these 
complaints have not yet reached your ears, so few 
dare speak the truth to Bishops. Doubtless it is 
because no one loves you as I do that I have been 
asked to speak about this. My commission is quite 
authentic, though I do not show you the signatures. 
A little of your superfluity handed over to me would 
do us both good, by making you go more quickly 
and me more slowly. 

“ Do you think,” he continued, ‘‘ that the people 
who are so anxious to assist at your Mass have any 
sympathy with your long preparation before-hand 
in the sacristy? Still less those who are waiting 
to speak to you after Mass, with your interminable 

‘“ Many of these people come from a distance, and 
have business engagements in the town.” 

‘“ But, Father,” I said, “ how ought we to make 
Our preparation? Scripture says, Before prayer 
prepare thy soul, and be not as a man that tempteth 
God.* How much more, then, must we prepare 
with all care for the stupendous act of celebrating 
Mass, before which, in the words of the Preface, 
the powers of Heaven tremble? How can one play 
on a lute without tuning it?” ‘‘ Why do you not 
make this preparation earlier, in your morning 
exercise, which I know, or at least I think, you 

*Eccle. xviii. 23. 

A Priest Saying Mass, &c. 459 

never neglect?” ‘‘I rise at four o’clock in the 
summer, sometimes sooner,” I replied, ‘‘ and I do 
not go to the Altar till about nine or ten o’clock.’’ 
‘And do you suppose,” he returned, “‘ that the 
interval from four to nine is very great to Him, in 
Whose sight a thousand years are as yesterday? ’’* 

This passage, so well applied, was like a sudden 
illumination to me. ‘‘ And what about the thanks- 
giving?” I said. ‘* Wait till your evening exer- 
cise to make it,” he answered; ‘“‘ you make your 
examination of conscience, surely so great an act 
will have its weight; and is not thanksgiving one 
of the points of self-examination? Both these acts 
can be made more at leisure and more calmly in the 
morning and evening: no one will be incon- 
venienced by them, and they will interfere with 
none of your ordinary duties.” ‘‘ But,” I objected, 
‘“ will it not be a cause of disedification to others 
to see me so quick over things? God should not 
be adored hurriedly.” ‘* We may hurry as much 
as we like,” he replied; “‘ God goes faster than we 
do. He is as the lightning which comes forth from 
the east and the next moment flashes in the west. 
All things are present to Him; with Him there is 
neither past nor future. How can we escape from 
His spirit?” I acquiesced, and since then all has 
gone well in this matter. 

Owing to the fact that the See of Belley had been 
vacant for four years, a dispensation was obtained 
from the Bishop enabling me, at the age of twenty- 

*Psalm Ixxxix. 4. 

460 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

five, to be consecrated Bishop, and at the same time 
to be put in possession of that See to which the 
King, Henry IV., had already appointed me. 

Blessed Francis himself consecrated me, in my 
own Cathedral Church of Belley, August 3oth, 

After a while scruples began to disturb my mind 
on account of this consecration, seemingly so pre- 
mature. I had, as it were, been made a captain 
when I had scarcely enlisted as a soldier. I carried 
my troubles to the director of my conscience, this 
Blessed Father who consoled and cheered me by 
suggesting many excellent reasons for this unusual 
state of things. The necessities of the diocese, the 
testimony to my character of so many persons of 
dignity and piety, the judgment of Henry the 
Great, whose memory he held in high honour, and, 
last of all, and above all, the command of His 
Holiness. He concluded by urging me not to look 
back, but rather to stretch forward to the things 
which were before me, following the advice of St. 

‘“ You have come to the vineyard,” he went on 
to say, ‘‘in the first hour of your day. Beware lest 
you labour there so slothfully, that those who enter 
at the eleventh hour outstrip you both in the work 
and in reward.” 

One day I said jestingly to him: ‘‘ Father, 
virtuous and exemplary as you are considered to 
be, you have committed one fault in your life, that 
of having consecrated me too early.” 

He answered me with a laugh which opened a 
heaven of joy to me. ‘‘It is certainly true,” he 
said, ‘‘that I have committed that sin, but I am 

Upon a Compassionate Mind 461 

much afraid God will never forgive me for it, 
for up to the present moment I have never been 
able to repent of it. I conjure you by the bowels 
of our common Master to live in such a manner 
that you may never give me cause for regret in this 
matter and rather, often to stir up in yourself the 
grace which was bestowed upon you from on high 
by the imposition of my hands. I have, you must 
know, been called to the consecration of other 
Bishops, but only as assistant. I have never con- 
secrated any one but you: you are my only one, 
my apprenticeship work. 

Take courage. God will help us. 

He is our light and our salvation, whom shall we 
fear? He is the Protector of our life, of whom 
shall we be afraid?” 


Although his soul was one of the strongest and 
most well-balanced possible, yet it was capable of 
the tenderest and most compassionate feelings for 
the sorrows of others. He did not repine over the 
miseries and infirmities of human nature, he only 
desired that all souls should be strengthened by 

To a lady who was heart-broken at the death of 
a sister whom she passionately loved, he wrote: 

‘“ I will not say to you, do not weep, for, on the 
contrary, it is just and reasonable that you should 
weep a little—but only a little—my dear daughter, 
as a proof of the sincere affection which you bore 
her, following the example of our dear Master, who 
shed a few tears over His friend Lazarus, but not 
many, as do those whose thoughts, being bounded 

462 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

by the moments of this miserable life, forget that 
we, too, are on our way to Eternity, in which if we 
live well in this life we shall be reunited to our 
beloved dead, nor ever be parted from them again. 
We cannot prevent our poor hearts: from being 
affected by the changes of this life, and by the loss 
of those who have been our pleasant companions 
in it. Still never must we be false to our solemn 
promise to unite our will inseparably to the Will 
of God.” 

Again, let me remind you how tenderly he ex- 
presses himself on the sorrowful occasions of the 
death of his dearest relatives and friends. 
‘“ Indeed,” he says, ‘‘at times like these I myself 
weep much. Then my heart, hard as a stone with 
regard to heavenly things, breaks and pours forth 
rivers of tears. But God be praised! They are 
always gentle tears, and, speaking to you as to 
my own dear daughter, I never shed them without 
a loving grateful thought of the providence of God. 
For, since our Saviour loved death and gave His 
death to be the object of our love, I cannot feel any 
bitterness, or grudge against it, whether it be that 
of my sisters or of anyone else, provided it be in 
union with the holy death of my Saviour.”’ 

And in another place he says: 

‘I must say just one word in confidence to you. 
There is not a man living who has a heart more 
tender and more open to friendship than mine, or 
who feels more keenly than I do the pain of 
separation from those I love; nevertheless, I hold 
so cheap this poor earthly life which we lead that I 
never turn back to God with a more ardent affection 
than when He has dealt me some blow of the kind 
or permitted one to be dealt me.” 

Upon doing One's Duty, &e. 463 


After I had preached several Advents and Lents 
in various towns of my diocese of Belley, he thought 
it well that I should do so in my own native city, 

Well knowing, as he did, the various views and 
judgments of the great world which rules there, he 
wished to teach me to care very little what people 
said about me, and he impressed the lesson upon 
me by relating to me the following story of an aged 
Priest and the college clock. 

A good Father being incapacitated by infirmities 
even more than by age from fulfilling the duty of 
teaching binding on his Order, and yet being 
anxious to have some little useful employment, was 
entrusted by his Superior with the winding and 
regulating the college clock. 

Very soon, however, he came to complain of the 
difficulty and almost impossibility of his work; not, 
he said, that it was at all beyond his strength, but 
that it was quite beyond him to satisfy everyone. 
When the clock was a little slow, he said, the young 
men who had difficult and troublesome work to do 
indoors, complained, declaring that the town clocks 
were much faster, and to please them he would 
put it on a little. As soon as this was done com- 
plaints burst forth from those whose work lay out- 
side the college, in visiting the sick and prisoners, 
or providing for the needs of the household in the 
city. They came back declaring that the town 
clocks were much slower, and reproaching me for 
having put theirs on. 

The Superior settled the matter by telling the 

464 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

good Father to let the clock take its own course, but 
always to use soft words to those who might com- 
plain, and to assure each one of them that he would 
do his best to keep the clock right if possible. 
‘So let it be with you,” concluded our Blessed 
Father. ‘‘ You are going to be exposed to the 
criticism of many; if you attend to all that they say 
of you, your work, like Penelope’s, will never be 
done, but every day you will have to begin it over 

Even some of your friends will in perfect good 
faith give you suggestions on matters which seem 
to them important, but which in reality are not so 
at all. 

One will tell you that you speak too fast, another 
that you gesticulate too much, a third that you 
speak too slowly, and don’t move enough—one will 
want quotations, another will dislike them; one will 
prefer doctrinal, another moral lessons; some one 
thing, some another. 

They will be like drones who do nothing but dis- 
turb the working bees, and who, though they can 
sting, yet make no honey.” 

‘“ Well! what is to be done in all this? ” 

“ Why, you must always answer gently, promis- 
ing to try and correct yourself of your faults 
whatever they may be, for there is nothing which 
pleases these counsellors so much as to see that 
their suggestions are accepted as judicious, and, 
at least, worthy of consideration. In the meantime 
go your own way, follow the best of your own 
character, pay no heed to such criticisms, which are 
often contradictory one of the other. 

Keep God before your eyes, abandon yourself 

The Honour Due to Virtue 465 

to the guidance of the spirit of grace, and say often 
with the Apostle, ‘If I yet pleased men I should 
not be the servant of Christ,’ who said of Him- 
self that He was not of this world. Neither, indeed, 
were His Apostles, for the friendship of the world 
is enmity with God. 

It is no small matter for a steersman in the midst 
of a storm to keep the rudder straight. Of little 
consequence ought it to be to us that we are judged 
by men. God is our only true judge, and it is He 
Who sees the secrets of our hearts, and all that is 
hidden in darkness.”’’ 


Honour is like thyme which the pagans thought 
ought only to be burnt on the Altar of Virtue. In 
ancient Rome the Temple of Honour could only be 
entered through the Temple of Virtue. 

The virtue of Blessed Francis de Sales was so 
generally recognized by both Catholics and Protes- 
tants that he may be truly said to have been univer- 
sally reverenced. 

A remarkable instance of this occurred at 
Grenoble, the chief town of Dauphiné, in the year 
in which he went there to preach during Advent 
and Lent. Monsieur de Lesdigiuéres, the King’s 
Viceroy at Grenoble, and Marshal of France, was 
not yet converted to the Catholic Faith. He, how- 
ever, received the Bishop with affectionate warmth, 
and paid him extraordinary honours. He frequently 
invited him to his table, and often visited him in 
his house, sometimes even being present at his 
sermons, for he really valued the teaching of the 
holy Bishop, and thought most highly of his 


466 The Sprit of St. Francis De Sales 

virtue. The Protestants of Grenoble took fright 
at this, more particularly because of the long, 
private interviews which took place between the 
Magistrate and the holy Bishop. 

Wherever he went the King’s representative 
spoke of Blessed Francis in the highest terms, and 
invariably made a point of giving him his title, 
Bishop of Geneva. In short, he paid him such 
deference as excited universal astonishment. 

In vain did the Huguenot clergy storm and rage, 
in vain did they threaten to excommunicate any- 
one having dealings with the Bishop. They could 
not prevent the majority of their congregations 
from pressing every day to hear the Saint’s ser- 
mons, which created a great sensation amongst 

The Huguenot preachers, far from gaining fresh 
adherents, saw their flock steadily dwindling away. 

At last, in despair, the Consistory determined to 
send a deputation to remonstrate with M. de 
Lesdigiuéres on the warm welcome he was giving 
the holy Bishop, and on his own behaviour in 
scandalizing the whole Protestant party by attend- 
ing Blessed Francis’ sermons. 

The deputation, formed of the elders and most 
notable men of the sect, reached the Marshal’s 
house early in the morning, so that he was not 
even dressed when their request for an interview 
was brought to him. 

Being a man who would not be dictated to, he 
sent down word to the Huguenots that if they came 
to visit him as friends, or to communicate any 
matter of business to him, he would receive them 
gladly, but if they meant to remonstrate with him, 

The Honour Due to Virtue 467 

in the name of the Consistory or ministers, on the 
politeness he was showing to the Bishop of Geneva, 
they might rest assured that they would go out 
through the window faster than they had come in 
by the door! 

This message was enough. ‘The deputation 
broke up at once; but with how many lamentations 
over this unexpected reception, given by one whom 
they had reckoned upon as the chief stay and prop 
of their sect. 

Their next plan was to send one of the principal 
noblemen of the province, a Protestant like them- 
selves, upon the same errand as before. He, how- 
ever, fared no better than the deputation. 

Tell those gentlemen (said M. de Lesdigiuéres) 
that I am old enough to know the rules of politeness. 

Up to the age of thirty I was myself a Roman 
Catholic. I know how Roman Catholics treat their 
Bishops, and with what respect these Bishops are 
treated by Kings and Princes. They hold a rank 
altogether different from that of our ministers, who, 
even the highest among them, are only Parish 
Priests, since they themselves deny the very exist- 
ence of the order of Bishop, however good a 
foundation for it there may seem to be in the teach- 
ing of Holy Scripture. As for me, my belief is 
that they will in the end be sorry they have given 
up this distinction of rank. ‘‘ Tell M. B. (he was 
a minister of low birth, had formerly been M. de 
Lesdigiuéres’ servant, and owed to him his actual 
position in the so-called Reformed Church of 
Grenoble) that when I see among Huguenot 
ministers, sons and brothers of sovereign Princes, 
as I do among Roman Catholic Bishops, Arch- 

468 The Spirit of St. Francs De Sales 

bishops, and Cardinals, I will perhaps change my 
mind as to how to treat them socially. _ 

As regards the Bishop of Geneva, I can only say 
that if I were in his place and were, as he is, 
sovereign Prince of this city, I would see that I 
was properly obeyed, and that my authority was 
duly recognised. I know what are his rights and 
titles better than B ... or any of his colleagues 
can possibly do; it is for me to give them a lesson 
on the subject, and for them, if they are wise, to 
listen. It is not for young, uneducated men to 
presume to show a man of my age and rank how 
to behave himself.”’ 

After this the Viceroy redoubled his attentions to 
the holy Bishop, to whom he paid every honour in 
his power. 

On the other hand, he himself received such good 
impressions of our religion from what he saw of 
the Bishop that they greatly facilitated his con- 
version, which took place after he had been pro- 
moted to the rank of Constable. 

He died an excellent Catholic, and most happily. 


On one occasion Blessed Francis was complain- 
ing to me of the shortness of his memory. I tried 
to console him by reminding him that even if it 
were true, there was no lack in him of judgment, 
for in that he always excelled. 

In reply, he said that it was certainly unusual to 
find a good memory and excellent judgment united, 
although the two qualities might be possessed to- 
gether by some in a moderate degree. He added 
that there were of course exceptions to the rule, but 

Upon Memory and Judgment 469 

such exceptions were mostly of rare and extra- 
ordinary merit. 

He gave as an instance one of his most intimate 
friends, the great Anthony Favre, first President 
of Savoy, and one of the most celebrated lawyers 
of his time, who united in his own person remark- 
able keenness of judgment with a marvellous 
memory. ‘‘In truth,” he went on to say, “‘ these 
two qualities are so different in their nature, that 
it is not difficult for one to push the other out. 
One is the outcome of vivacity and alertness, the 
other is not unfrequently characteristic of the slow 
and leaden-footed.”’ 

After some more conversation with me on this 
subject, in which I deplored my want of judgment, 
he concluded with these words: ‘* It is a common 
thing for people to complain of their defective 
memory, and even of the malice and worthlessness 
of their will, but nobody ever deplores his poverty 
of spirit, i.e., of judgment. In spite of the Beati- 
tude, everyone rejects such a thought as a doing an 
injustice to themselves. Well, courage! advanc- 
ing years will bring you pien of judgment: it is 
one of the fruits of experience and old age. 

But as for memory, its failure is one of the un- 
doubted defects of old people. That is why I have 
little hope of the improvement of my own; but pro- 
vided I have enough to remember God that is all I 
want.* I remembered, O Lord, Thy judgments of 
old: and I was comforted.” 


I esteemed him so highly, and not without reason, 
*Psalm cxviii. 52. 

470 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

that all his ways delighted me. Among others, I 
thought that I should like to imitate his style of 
preaching. Can it be said that I chose a bad 
model or was wanting in taste? 

Do not, however, imagine for a moment that I 
have ever aimed at reproducing his lofty and deep 
thoughts and teaching, the eloquent sweetness of 
his language, the marvellous power which swayed 
the hearts of his audience. No, I have always felt 
that to be beyond my powers, and I have only tried 
to mould my action, gestures, and intonation after 
the pattern set by him. Now, as it happened, that 
owing to his constitution and temperament his 
speech was always slow and deliberate, not to say 
prosy, and my own quite the opposite, I became so 
strangely changed that my dear people at Belley 
(where the above incident occurred) almost failed to 
recognise me. They thought a changeling had 
been foisted upon them in the place of their own 
Bishop, whose vehement action and passionate 
words they dearly loved, even though sometimes 
they had found his discourses hard to follow. In 
fact, I had ceased to be myself; I was now nothing 
more than a wretched copy with nothing in it really 
recalling the original. 

Our Blessed Father heard of this, and being 
eager to apply a remedy chose his opportunity, and 
one day, when we were talking about sermons, 
quietly remarked that he was told I had taken it 
into my head to imitate the Bishop of Geneva in 
my preaching. I replied that it was so, and asked if 
I had chosen a bad model, and if he did not preach 
better than I did. 

‘ Ah,” he replied, ‘‘ this is a chance for attacking 

A Priest should not aim at Imitating, £c. 471 

his reputation! But, no, he does not preach so 
badly, only the worst of it is that they tell me you 
imitate him so badly that his style is not recognis- 
able: that you have spoiled the Bishop of Belley 
yet have not at all succeeded in reproducing the 
Bishop of Geneva. You had better, like the artist 
who was forced to put the name of his subject under 
every portrait he painted, give out that you are 
only copying me.” ‘* Well, be it so, I replied, in 
good time you will see that little by little from being 
a pupil I have become a master, and in the end my 
copies will be taken for originals.” 

** Jesting apart,” he continued, ‘‘ you are spoiling 
yourself, ruining your preaching, and pulling down 
a splendid building to re-fashion it into one which 
sins against the rules of nature and art. You must 
remember, too, that if at your age, like a piece of 
cloth, you have taken a wrong fold, it will not be 
easy to smooth it out.” 

“ Ah ! if manners could be changed, what would 
I not give for such as yours? Ido what I can to 
stir myself up, I do not spare the spur, but the more 
I urge myself on, the less I advance. I have diffi- 
culty in getting my words out, and still more in 
pronouncing them. I am heavier than a block, I 
can neither excite my own emotions, nor those of 
others. You have more fire in the tip of your 
fingers than I have in my whole body. Where 
you fly like a bird, I crawl like a tortoise. And now 
they tell me that you, who are naturally so rapid, 
so lively, so powerful in your preaching, are 
weighing your words, counting your periods, 
drooping your wings, dragging yourself on, and 
making your audience as tired as yourself. Is this 

472 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

the beautiful Noemi of bygone days? the city of 
perfect loveliness, the joy of the whole earth? ”’ 

Why should I dwell more on his reproof? 
Sufficient to say that he cured me of my error, and 
I returned to my former style of preaching. God 
grant that it may be for His glory! 


He highly approved of brevity in preaching, and 
used to say that the chief fault of the preachers of 
the day was lengthiness. 

I ventured to ask how that could be a fault, and 
how he could speak of abundance as if it were 

He answered: ‘* When the vine is thick in leaves 
it always bears less fruit, multiplicity of words does 
not produce great results. You will find that a 
powerful and spirited horse will always start off 
promptly, and as promptly pull up. A poor post 
hack, on the contrary, will go on several paces after 
his rider has reined him in. Why is that? 
Because he is weak. So it is with the mind and 
intellect. He who is strong leaves off speaking 
when he pleases, because he has great control over 
himself, and readiness of judgment. A weak- 
minded man speaks much, but loses himself in his 
own thoughts, nor thinks of finishing what he has 
to say. Look at all the homilies and sermons of 
the ancient Fathers and observe how short they 
were, yet how much more efficacious than our 
lengthy ones! Wise St. Francis of Assisi, in his 
Rule, prescribes that the preachers of his Order 
shall preach the Gospel with brevity, and gives an 
excellent reason: ‘ Remembering,’ he says, ‘that: 

Upon Short Sermons 473 

a short word shall the Lord make upon the earth.’* 
The more you say, the less your hearers will 
retain. The less you say, the more they will profit. 
Believe me in this, for I speak from experience. 
By overloading the memory of a hearer we destroy 
it, just as lamps are put out when they are filled 
too full of oil, and plants are spoilt by being too 
abundantly watered. When a discourse is too 
long, by the time the end is reached, the middle 
is forgotten, and by the time the middle is reached 
the beginning has been lost.’ Moderately good 
preachers are accepted, provided they are brief, and 
the best become tiresome when they are too lengthy. 
There is no more disagreeable quality in a preacher 
than prolixity.’’ 

Our Blessed Father sometimes surprised me by 
saying that we ought to be pleased if, when going 
up into the pulpit to preach, we saw before us a 
small and scattered audience. ‘‘ Thirty years of 
experience,’’ he said, ‘‘ have made me speak thus: 
I have always seen greater results from the sermons 
which I have preached to small congregations than 
from those which I have delivered in crowded 
churches. An occurrence which I am going to 
relate will justify what I say. 

‘“ When I was Provost, or rather Dean, of my 
church, my predecessor in this diocese, sent me, 
in company with some other Priests, to instruct in 
the Faith the inhabitants of the three bailiwicks of 
the Chablais, namely, Thonon, Ternier, and 
Gaillard. The towns being full at that time of 
Huguenots, we had no access to them, and could 
only say Mass and give instruction in some scattered 
and rather distant chapels. 

*Rom. ix. 28, 

474 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

‘One Sunday, when the weather was very bad, 
there were only seven persons at my Mass, and 
these few suggested to some one to tell me that I 
ought not to take the trouble of preaching after 
Mass, as it was the custom then to do, the number 
of hearers being so small. I replied that neither 
did a large audience encourage me, nor a scanty 
one discourage me; provided only that I could 
edify one single person, that would be enough for 

“ I went up, therefore, into the pulpit, and I 
remember that the subject of my sermon was 
praying to the Saints. I treated it very simply and 
catechetically, not at all controversially, as you 
know that is neither my style nor is the doing so 
to my taste. I said nothing pathetic, and put 
nothing very forcibly, yet one of my small audience 
began to weep bitterly, sobbing and giving vent to 
audible sighs. I thought that he was ill, and 
begged him not to put any constraint upon himself, 
as I was quite ready to break off my sermon, and 
to give him any help he needed. He replied that 
he was perfectly well in body, and he begged me to 
go on speaking boldly, for so I should be admin- 
istering the needful healing to the wound. 

The sermon, which was very short, being ended, 
he hurried up to me, and throwing himself at my 
feet cried out: ‘ Reverend sir, you have given me 
life, you have saved my soul to-day. Oh, blessed 
the hour in which I came here and listened to your 
words! This hour will be worth a whole eternity 
to me.’ 

And then, being asked to do so, he related openly 
before the little congregation, that, having con- 

Upon Short Sermons 475 

ferred with some ministerson this very same subject 
of praying to the Saints, which they made out to 
be sheer idolatry, he had decided on the following 
Thursday to return to their ranks (he was a recent 
convert to Catholicism), and to abjure the Catholic 
religion. But, he added, that the sermon which 
he had just heard had instructed him so well, and 
had so fully dispersed all his doubts, that he took 
back with his whole heart the promise he had given 
them, and vowed new obedience to the Roman 

I cannot tell you what an impression this great 
example, taking place in so small a congregation, 
made throughout the country, or how docile and 
responsive to the words of life and of truth it made 
all hearts. I could allege other similar instances, 
some even more remarkable.”’ 

For myself I now prefer small congregations, 
and am never so well pleased as when I see only a 
little group of people listening to my preaching. 
Seneca ence said to his friend Lucillus that they 
themselves formed a theatre wide enough for the 
communication of their philosophy, and, speaking 
of those who came to hear his teaching, he says: 
Satis sunt pauci, satis est alter, satis est unus. 
A few are enough—two are enough—nay, one is 
enough. Why should not a Christian Philosopher 
be content with what was enough for this Stoic? 


On the subject of preaching, Blessed Francis had 
very definite and weighty thoughts. He considered 
that it was not sufficient for a preacher to teach the 
ways of God to the unrighteous, and by converting 

476 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

the wicked, to build up by his words the walls of 
Jerusalem, that is, of holy Church, while making 
known to God’s people the ways of divine pro- 
vidence. He wanted more than this, and said 
that every sermon ought to have some special plan, 
with always for its end the giving glory to God 
and the converting and instructing of those who 
were to hear it. Sometimes this would be the setting 
forth of a mystery, sometimes the clearing up of 
some point of faith, sometimes the denouncing of 
a particular vice, sometimes the endeavouring to 
plant some virtue in the hearts of the hearers. 

‘“ No one,” he said, ‘‘can sufficiently lay to 
heart the tmportance of having a definite aim in 
preaching; for want of it many carefully studied 
sermons are without fruit. Some preachers are 
content to explain their text with all the pains- 
taking and mental effort that they can bring to bear 
upon the subject. Others give themselves up to 
elaborate and exhaustive research and excite the 
admiration of their hearers, either by their scientific 
reasonings, their eloquence, the studied grace of 
their gestures, or by their perfect diction. Others 
add to all this beautiful and useful teaching, but 
so that it only slips in here and there, as it were, by 
chance, and is not expressly dwelt upon. But when 
we have only one aim, and when all our reasonings 
and all our movements tend towards it and gather 
round it, as the radii of a circle round the unity of 
its centre, then the impression made is infinitely 
more powerful. Such speaking has the force of a 
mighty river which leaves its mark upon the hardest 
of the stones it flows over. 

Upon Preaching and Preachers 477 

“ Drones visit every flower, yet gather no honey 
from any. The working bee does otherwise: it 
settles down upon each flower just as long as is 
necessary for it to suck in enough sweetness to 
make its one honeycomb. So those who follow my 
method will preach profitable sermons, and will 
deserve to be accounted faithful dispensers of the 
divine mysteries; prudent administrators of the 
word of life and of eternal life.’’ 

When our Blessed Father heard a certain preacher 
praised up to tne skies, he asked in what virtues he 
excelled; whether in humility, mortification, gentle- 
ness, courage, devotion or what? When told that 
he was said to preach very well, he replied: ‘‘ That 
is speaking, not acting: the former is far easier 
than the latter. There are many who speak and 
yet act not, and who destroy by their bad example 
what they build up with their tongue. A man 
whose tongue is longer than his arm, is he not a 
monstrosity ?”’ 

On one occasion, of some one who had delighted 
all his hearers by a sermon he had preached, it 
was said : ‘‘ To-day he literally did wonders.” The 
Saint replied: “‘ If he did that he must be one of 
those absolutely blameless men of whom Scripture 
says ‘they have not sought after gold, nor hoped 
for treasures of gold and silver.’ ° Another time 
he was told that this same preacher had on a par- 
ticular day surpassed himself. ‘‘ Ah!’’ he said, 
“what new act of self-renunciation has he made? 
What injury has he borne? For it is only after 
overcoming ourselves in this way that we surpass 

“Do you wish to know,” he continued, ‘‘ how 

478 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

I test the excellence and value of a preacher? It 
is by assuring myself that those who have been 
listening to him come away striking their breasts 
and saying: ‘I will do better’; not by their 
saying: ‘Oh how well he spoke, what beautiful 
things he said!’ For to say beautiful things in 
fluent and well-chosen words shows indeed the 
learning and eloquence of a man; but the con- 
version of sinners and their departing from their 
evil ways is the sure sign that God has spoken 
by the mouth of the preacher, that he possesses 
the true power of speech, which is inspired by the 
science of the Saints, and that he proclaims worthily 
in the name of Almighty God that perfect law 
which is the salvation of souls. 

‘“ The true fruit of preaching is the destruction 
of sin and the establishment of the kingdom of 
justice upon earth.* By this justice, of which the 
prophet speaks, is meant justification and sanctifi- 
cation. For this, God sends his preachers, as Jesus 
Christ sent His Apostles, that they may bring forth 
fruit, and that this fruit may remain,f and by con- 
sequence that they may labour for a meat which 
perishes not, but which endures unto life ever- 

When I was in residence in my diocese I never 
failed to preach on every possible day in Advent 
and Lent, besides doing so on all Sundays and 
holidays. Some good people who set themselves 
up as judges in such matters, full of worldly pru- 
dence, said that I was making myself too common, 
and bringing the holy function of preaching into 

*Dan. ix 24. tJohn xv. 16. tId. vi. 27. 

Upon Preaching and Preachers 479 

This came to the ears of our Blessed Father, 
and he, despising such poor earthly wisdom, 
observed, that to blame a husbandman or vine- 
dresser for cultivating his land too well was really 
to praise him. Speaking to me on the subject, and 
fearing that all that had been said might dis- 
courage me, he related to me what follows: “I 
had,’’ he said, the best father in the world, but as 
he had spent a great part of his life at court and in 
the camp, he knew the maxims that hold in those 
conditions of life far better than he did the principles 
of holy living. 

“ While I was Provost,’’ he continued, ‘‘ I 
preached on all possible occasions, whether in the 
Chablais, where I was busy for many years up- 
rooting heresy, or, on my return, in the Cathedral, 
in parish churches, and even in the chapels of the 
most obscure Confraternities. While at Annecy I 
never refused any invitation whencesoever it came 
to preach. One day my good father took me 
aside and said to me: ‘ Provost, you preach too 
often. Even on week days I am always hearing 
the bell ringing for sermons, and when I ask who 
is preaching I invariably get the same answer: 
‘“ The Provost, the Provost.’ In my time, it was 
not sO; sermons were rare, but then they were 
sermons! They were learned and well studied, 
more Greek and Latin was quoted in one of them 
than in ten of yours; people were delighted and 
edified, they crowded to hear them, just as they 
would have crowded to gather up manna. Now, 
you make preaching so common that no one thinks 
much of it, and you yourself are held in far less 

480 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

“" You see my good father spoke according to 
his lights and quite sincerely. You may be sure 
he was not wishing me ill, but he was guided by 
the maxims of the world in which he had been 
brought up. 

Yet what folly in the sight of God are all the 
principles of human wisdom! If we pleased men 
we should not be the servants of Jesus Christ. He 
Himself, the model of all preachers, did not use 
all this circumspection, neither did the Apostles 
who followed in His footsteps. Preach the word: 
be instant in season out of season.* 

‘“ Believe me, we can never preach enough, 
especially in this border-land of heresy, heresy 
which is only kept alive by sermons, and which will 
never be destroyed except by that very breath of 
God which is holy preaching. 

If you will take my advice, therefore, you will 
shut your eyes against the counsels of your worldly- 
wise monitors and listen rather to St. Paul, who 
says to you: But be thou vigilant, labour in all 
things, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil thy 
ministry .F 

Moreover, when the Apostle continues, Be sober, 
he refers to temperance in eating and drinking, not 
to sobriety or restraint in the discharge of pastoral 
duties. Blessed is the pastor who shall be found 
watching and feeding his flock! I tell you that the 
divine Master will set him over all his goods. And 
when the Prince of Pastors shall come he will 
receive from His hand a crown of glory which can 
never fade.” 

w Tom. GW. 2,99. $ Time Wes: 

Blessed Francis and the Bishop, £c. 481 


One day I was to preach at the Visitation Con- 
vent at Annecy, the first established convent of the 
Order, and I knew that our Blessed Father, as well 
as a great congregation, would be present. I had, 
to tell the truth, taken extra pains in the considera- 
tion of my subject, and intended to do my very best. 
I had chosen for text a passage in the Canticle of 
Canticles, and this I turned and twisted into every 
possible form, applying it to the Visitation voca- 
tion which I extolled far too extravagantly to please 
the good Bishop. 

When he and I were alone together afterwards, 
he told me that, though my hearers had been 
delighted with me, and could not say enough in 
praise of my sermon, there was one solitary excep- 
tion, one individual who was not pleased with it. 
On my expressing surprise and much curiosity to 
know whom I could have hurt or distressed by my 
words, he answered quietly that I saw the person 
now before me. I looked around—there was no one 
present but himself. ‘‘ Alas!” I cried, ‘‘ this is 
indeed a wet blanket thrown upon my success. I 
had rather have had your approbation than that of 
a whole province! However, God be praised! 
I have fallen into the hands of a surgeon who 
wounds only to heal. 

“ What more have you to say, for I know you 
do not .atend to spare me? ” 

‘““ I love you too much,” he replied, ‘‘ either to 
spare or to flatter you, and had you loved our 
Sisters in the same way, you would not have wasted 


482 The Sprit of St. Francis De Sales 

words in puffing them up in place of edifying them, 
and in praising their vocation, of which they have 
already quite a sufficiently high opinion. 

‘“ You would have dealt out to them more salu- 
tary doctrine, in proportion as it would have been 
more humiliating. Always remember that the 
whole object of preaching is to root out sin, and 
to plant justice in its stead.” 

On my replying to this that those whom I 
addressed were already delivered from the hands 
of their enemies, the world, the flesn, and the devil, 
and were serving God securely in holiness and 
justice, ‘‘ Then,’’ he said, ‘‘ since they are stand- 
ing, you should teach them to take heed lest they 
fall, and to work out their salvation with fear and 

‘It is right, indeed, for you to encourage them 
to persevere in their holy undertaking, but you 
must do so without exposing them to the danger 
of presumption and vanity. Enough said; I know 
that for the future you will be careful in this 

The next day he sent me to preach in a convent 
of Poor Clares, an Order renowned for the exem- 
plary life of its members and for their extraordinary 
austerities. I took good care to avoid the rock on 
which I had struck the day before, and against 
which he had warned me. There was as large a 
congregation as before, but I confined myself to 
plain and simple language, without a thought of 
studied rhetoric. 

I did not praise the austerities of the good nuns, 
nor did I labour to please any of my hearers, their 
edification was my sole object. 

Blessed Francis and the Bishop, £c. 483 

On our return to the house, our Blessed Father 
said, embracing me tenderly, that though most of 
those present were dissatisfied, and compared my 
sermon most unfavourably with that of the preced- 
ing day, yet, that he, on the contrary, who had 
then found fault with me, was now perfectly con- 
tented and pleased, and that he believed that God 
was pleased also. ‘‘ As for your past faults,” he 
continued, ‘‘I give you a plenary indulgence for 
them all. 

“If you continue to preach as you have just 
done, whatever the world may say, you will be 
doing much service for the Master of the Vineyard, 
and will become a fitting servant of His Testa- 

One day I was preaching before him at Annecy 
in the church which he used as his cathedral. He 
was surrounded by all his canons, who, with the 
whole Chapter, attended him to the bench where 
he was in the habit of sitting to hear sermons. 

This particular one of mine pleased him as 
regarded its matter and delivery, but I suffered an 
allusion to escape me referring to his own name of 
Sales, and implying, or rather affirming, that he 
was the salt (Sal es) with which the whole mass of 
the people was seasoned. 

This praise was so distasteful to him that, on our 
return from the church, he took me to task for it, 
in a tone and with a manner as severe as was pos- 
sible to his gentle nature. ‘“‘ You were going on 
so well,” he said. ‘* What could have induced you 
to play these pranks? Do you know that you 
spoilt your sermon by them? Truly, I am a fine 
sort of salt, fit only to be thrown into the street and 

484 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

trampled under foot by the people. For certainly 
you must have said what you did say in order to 
put me to shame—you have found out the right 
way to do that—but, at least, spare your own 

I tried to excuse myself, alleging that what the 
Bishop of Saluces once said to him had suddenly 
come into my head, and that, quite without pre- 
meditation, the very same words escaped my lips. 
““ But,” he replied, “‘ in the pulpit such things must 
not escape our lips. I am quite aware that this 
time they really did escape you, but you must not 
allow it to happen again.” 

I may here explain, for your benefit, what I 
meant by this reference to a saying of the Bishop 
of Saluces. That holy prelate, who died in the 
odour of sanctity, and who was a disciple of St. 
Philip Neri, was an intimate friend of our Blessed 

On one occasion, when the latter was passing 
through Saluces on his way to the shrine of Our 
Lady of Montdeay, the good Bishop received him 
with every mark of respect, and begged him to 
preach in his cathedral. After the sermon, he said 
to him, ‘‘ My Lord, truly tu Sal es, at ego, neque 
sal, neque lux.” That is to say, “< Youwarea 
true salt (Sal es), and I am neither salt nor light,” 
alluding to the word Saluces (Sal lux), his diocese.’ 

The gentleness of his disposition made Blessed 

INoTE.—Another version says that it was St. Francis who 
answered: ‘‘On the contrary, tu sal et lux.’’ See “ Vies 
de S. F. de Sales,” by his nephew, Charles Auguste de 
Sales and Hamon. Also the life of Blessed Juvenal 
Ancina, the said Bishop of Saluces. [Ed.] 

Upon Controversy 485 

Francis averse to disputing, either in private or 
public, in matters of religion. Rather, he loved to 
hold informal and kindly conferences with any who 
had wandered from the right way; and by this 
means he brought back countless souls into the 
Catholic Church. His usual method of proceeding 
was this. He first of all listened readily to all that 
his opponents had to say about their religion, not 
showing any sign of weariness or contempt, how- 
ever tired he might be of the subject. By this 
means he sought to incline them to give him in 
his turn some little attention. When, if only out 
of mere civility, he was given in his turn an oppor- 
tunity of speaking, he did not lose a moment of the 
precious time, but at once took up the subject 
treated by the heretic, or perhaps another which 
he considered more useful, and deduced from it 
briefly, clearly, and very simply the truth of the 
Catholic belief, and this without any air of contend- 
ing, without a word which breathed of controversy, 
but neither more nor less than as if dealing in a 
catechetical instruction with an Article of the Faith. 

If interrupted by outcries and contemptuous 
expressions, he bore the annoyance with incredible 
patience, and, without showing himself disturbed 
in the least, continued his discourse as soon as 
ever an Opportunity was given to him. 

‘“ You would never believe,” he said, ‘‘ how 
beautiful the truths of our holy Faith appear to 
those who consider them calmly. We smother 
them when we try to dress them up, and we hide 
them when we aim at rendering them too con- 
spicuous. Faith is an infused, not a natural, know- 
ledge; it is not a human science, but a divine light, 

486 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

by means of which we see things which, in the 
natural order, are invisible to us. If we try to 
teach it as human sciences are taught, by ocular 
demonstrations and by natural evidence, we deceive 
ourselves; Faith is not to be found where human 
reason tries only to support itself by the experience 
of the senses. 

All the external proofs which can be brought to 
bear upon our opponents are weak, unless the Holy 
Spirit is at work in their souls, teaching them to 
recognise the ways of God. All that has to be done 
is to propose to them simply the truths of our Faith. 
To propose these truths is to compel men to accept 
them, unless, indeed, they resist the Holy Spirit, 
either through dullness of understanding, or 
through uncircumcision of the heart. The attach- 
ing over much importance to the light of natural 
reason is a quenching of the Spirit of God. Faith 
is not an acquired, but an infused virtue; it must 
be treated with accordingly, and in instructing 
heretics we must beware of taking to ourselves any 
part of the glory which belongs to God alone. 

One of the greatest misfortunes of heretics is that 
their ministers in their discourses travesty our 
Faith, representing it as something quite different 
from what it really is. For example, they pretend 
that we have no regard for Holy Scripture; that 
we worship the Pope as God; that we regard the 
Saints as divinities ; that we hold the Blessed Virgin 
as being more than Jesus Christ; that we pay 
divine worship to images and pictures; that we 
believe souls in Purgatory to be suffering the self- 
Same agony and despair as those in Hell; that we 
deprive the laity of participation in the Blood of 

Upon Controversy 487 

Jesus Christ; that we adore bread in the Eucharist ; 
that we despise the merits of Jesus Christ, attribut- 
ing our salvation solely to the merit of our good 
works; that auricular confession is mental torture; 
and so on, endeavouring by calumnies of this sort 
to discredit our religion and to render the -very 
thought of it odious to those who are so thoroughly 
misinformed as to its nature. When, on the con- 
trary, they are made acquainted with our real belief 
on any of these points, the scales fall from their 
eyes, and they see that the fascination and cajolery 
of their preachers has hidden from them the truth 
as to God’s goodness and the beauty of God’s truth, 
and has put darkness before them in the place of 

It is true that at first they may shrug their 
shoulders, and laugh us to scorn; but when they 
have left us, and, being alone, reflect a little 
on what we have told them, you will see them 
flutter back like decoyed birds, saying to us, ‘ We 
Should like to hear you speak again about those 
things which you brought before us the other day.’ 
Then they fall, some on the right hand, others on 
the left, and Truth, victorious on all sides, brings 
them by different paths to know it as it really is.” 

He gave me many instances of conversions he 
had himself made in this manner during his five 
years’ mission in the Chablais. 

He gave them to show how useful this mode of 
proceeding was, and how far more helpful to souls 
than mere controversy can be. 

Blessed Francis did not approve of controversial 

488 The Spirit of St. Francs De Sales 

sermons.' ‘* The Christian pulpit,” he used to say, 
“is a place for improving of morals, not for 
wrangling about them, for instructing the faithful 
in the truth of their belief, rather than for convinc- 
ing of their error those who have separated them- 
selves from the Church. An experience of thirty 
years in the work of evangelising makes me speak 
thus. We made some trial of the controversial 
method, when God through us led back the Chab- 
lais to the Catholic Faith, but when I attempted to 
throw my treating of controversial subjects in the 
pulpit into the form of a discussion, it was never 
successful. In place of reclaiming our separated 
brethren, this method scares them away; when they 
see that we are of set purpose attacking them, they 
instantly put themselves on their guard; when we 
bring the lamp too close to their eyes, they start 
back from the light. Nor have I ever observed 
that any of my fellow labourers in this work of the 
Lord were more successful in following out this 
plan, of fencing, as I may more justly call it, even 
though they engaged in it with the utmost enthu- 
siasm, and in a place where the congregation all 
sang hymns together, and each one in his turn 
acted the preacher, each saying exactly what he 
liked, and no one taking any kind of official lead 
among them. 

But, in truth, this fencing was what St. Paul 
calls beating the air.* I do not mean that we must 
not prove Catholic truths, and refute the contrary 
errors; for the weapons of the spiritual armoury 

1Note.—It is more correct to say that St. Francis pre- 

ferred moral sermons to controversy. 
*; Cor. ix. 26. 

The same subject continued 489 

and of the Word of God are powerful to destroy 
all false teaching which rears itself up against the 
truth, and to condemn disobedience to God; but 
we must not slash with our words as desperate 
fencers do, but rather manage them dexterously, as 
does a surgeon when using his lancet—he probes 
skilfully, so as to wound the patient as little as 

And, indeed, Blessed Francis’? way of dealing 
with this branch of theology, bristling with thorns 
as it does at every point, was so sweet and pleasant 
as to make it, as it were, blossom into roses. I 
could relate many instances of the success of his 
preaching, without employing controversy, in 
bringing back wanderers from the fold, equally 
with other sinners, into the Church. 

He accomplished this by simply stating great 
truths, and bringing them home to his hearers. 
One of the most remarkable instances, perhaps, is 
that of the Protestant lady, who hearing him preach 
on the Last Judgment at Paris in the year 16109, 
having been attracted more by curiosity than by 
any good motive to listen to the sermon, there 
received that first flash of light which afterwards 
guided her into the bosom of the true Church, into 
which later she was followed by all the members 
of her noble family, one that has since given us 
many celebrated divines and preachers. This 
incident, however, with many more of the same 
kind, is fully related in the life of our Blessed 
Father. So successful was he with Protestants that 
Cardinal du Perron used to say that if it were only 
a question of confounding the heretics, he thought 
he had found out the secret, but to convert them 
he felt obliged to send for the Bishop of Geneva. 

490 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 


He used to say that reason never deceives, but 
reasoning often does. When a person went to him 
with some complaint, or about some troublesome 
business, he would always listen most patiently and 
attentively to any reasons which were put before 
him, and, being full of prudence and good judg- 
ment, he could always discern between what had 
any bearing on the matter and what was foreign to 
it. When, therefore, people began obstinately to 
defend their opinions by reasons, which, plausible 
though they might appear, really carried no weight 
sufficient to secure a judgment, he would sometimes 
say very gently, “‘ Yes, I know quite well that these 
are your reasons, but do you know that all reasons 
are not reasonable?’’ Someone on one ocasion 
having retorted that he might as well assert that 
heat was not warm, he replied seriously, ‘‘ Reason 
and reasoning are two different things: reasoning 
is only the path leading to reason.’’ Thus he 
would endeavour to bring the person who had 
strayed away from truth back to it. Truth and 
reason can never be separated, because they are 
one and the same thing. 

Upon QuotinG Hoty Scripture. 

St. Charles Borromeo never read the Scriptures 
except on his knees, just as if he were listening to 
God speaking on Mount Sinai in thunder and light- 

Blessed Francis also would not allow the Bible 
to be treated with anything but the most extreme 

Upon Political Diplomacy 491 

reverence, whether in public speaking, in writing, 
or in private reading. 

He was especially averse to that habit which some 
preachers have of plunging into the mystical mean- 
ing of a passage, whether allegorical or figurative, 
before they have explained its literal sense. ‘“‘ To 
do this,” he said, ‘‘ is to build the roof of a house 
before laying the foundation. Holy Scripture must 
be treated with more reverence and more consis- 
tency—it is not material to be cut according to 
our fancy, and made into ornamental garments such 
as fashion suggests.’’ 


On one occasion I expressed my surprise to our 
Blessed Father that his Serene Highness Charles 
Emanuel, Duke of Savoy, who was one of the most 
excellent Princes and foremost politicians of his 
age, should never have employed him in his affairs, 
especially in those which regarded France, where 
they did not prosper. 

As may be supposed, I explained the reason of 
my surprise, insisting that his gentleness, patience, 
skill, and probity were certain to bring about the 
desired result. 

He listened in silence, and then answered with 
a seriousness and earnestness which put me to 
shame, ** You say too much, you exaggerate: you 
imagine that others esteem me as you do, you who 
are always looking at me through a magnifying 
glass. However, let us put that aside. As regards 
our Prince, my feeling is very different from yours, 
for in this very matter I consider that he shows the 
excellence of his judgment. 

492 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

‘I will tell you why I speak and think this. In 
the first place, I have not all that skill and prudence 
in the management of affairs with which you credit 
me. Is it likely I should have? The mere words, 
human prudence, business, politics, terrify me. 
That is not all. To speak frankly, I know nothing 
of the art of lying, dissimulating, or pretence, 
which latter is the chief instrument and the main- 
spring of political manceuvring; the art of arts in 
all matters of human prudence and of civil adminis- 

‘““ Not for all the provinces of Savoy, of France, 
nay, not for the whole empire, would I connive 
at deceit. I deal with others frankly, in good faith, 
and very simply; the words of my lips are the out- 
come of the thoughts of my heart. I cannot carry 
two faces under one hood; I hate duplicity with a 
mortal hatred, knowing that God holds the deceitful 
man in abomination. There are very few who, 
knowing me, do not at least discern this much of 
my character. They therefore judge very wisely 
that I am by no means fit for an office in which 
you have to speak peace to your neighbour whilst 
you are plotting mischief against him in your 
heart. Moreover, I have always followed, as a 
heavenly, supreme, and divine maxim, those great 
words of the Apostle: No man being a soldier to 
God entangleth himself with secular business that 
he may please Him to whom he hath engaged him- 
selj.” * 


St. Francis was truly like Aaron called to the 

*2 Tim. iq 

Upon Ambition 493 

pastoral charge by God alone, without his having 
used artifices or other means to procure himself 
such honour. This plainly appears from his life 
written by so many worthy persons. 

His Bishopric was, indeed, no sinecure, being 
a most onerous burden. He says of it himself in 
one of his letters: 

‘“ The affairs of this diocese are not streams, they 
are torrents which cannot be forded.’’ Alluding to 
the words of the prophet: And it was a torrent 
which I could not pass over.* 

Towards the close of his life, when Meds eae 
Christina of France, the King’s sister,! married His 
Serene Highness the Prince of Piedmont, heir to 
the Duke of Savoy, she wished to have Blessed 
Francis in some Official position close to her person, 
and, to effect this, proposed to make him her Grand 
Almoner. Certain prelates who had been them- 
selves hoping to obtain this office, seeing their 
design thus frustrated, murmured bitterly, bursting 
forth into angry invectives against the Saint, as 
if by cabals, and intrigue, according to the custom 
of the world, he had succeeded in gaining the post 
for himself. St. Francis, however, was merely 
amused by what he called the buzzing of flies, and 
wrote to one in whom he could confide: 

“ Her Highness and the Prince of Piedmont wish 
me to become the Princess’s Grand Almoner, but 
you will believe me readily enough, I am sure, 
when I tell you that I neither, directly nor indirectly, 
have shown any wish to obtain this office. No, 
truly, my dearest Mother, I have no ambition save 
that of being able to employ the remainder of my 
days usefully in the service and to the honour of 

“Ezech. xlvii. 5. 1 Louis XIII. 

494 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

our Lord. Indeed, I hold courts in sovereign 
contempt, because they are centres of the power of 
this world, which I abhor each day more and more 
— itself, its spirit, its maxims, and all its follies.” 


Blessed Francis did not hold the opinion of many 
that the courts of Princes are places the very atmo- 
sphere of which is so tainted as to infect all who 
frequent them, and to be invariably prejudicial to 
the health and holiness of the soul. 

Those who describe a court in terms of this sort 
are usually very ignorant on the subject. They 
speak of what they have never seen nor heard about 
from competent witnesses. A soul which has 
received the grace of God, and preserves it, can 
work out its salvation anywhere, nor is there any 
harmful intercourse so disease-laden that it cannot 
be overcome by this heavenly antidote. ‘‘ David, 
and after him St. Louis,’’ says our Holy Bishop, 
‘in the press of the perils, toils, and travails which 
they endured, as well in peace as in war, did not 
cease to sing in truth: ‘ What have I in Heaven, 
and, besides Thee, what do I desire upon earth?’ ’’* 

‘St. Bernard lost none of the ground which he 
desired to gain in this holy love by passing much 
time in the courts and armies of great Princes 
where he laboured to guide matters of state to the 
advancement of God’s glory. He changed his 
habitation, but he changed not his heart, nor did 
his heart change its love, nor his love its object; 
in fine, to speak his own language, changes were 
made round about him, but not in him. 

*Psalm lxxii. 25. 

Upon Courts and Courtiers 495 

His employments were different, yet he was 
indifferent to all employment, and different from 
them all, his soul not taking its colour from his 
affairs and conversations, as the chameleon does 
from the places where it is, but remaining ever 
wholy united to God, ever white in purity, ever red 
with charity, and ever full of humility. 

I am not ignorant, Theotimus, of that wise man’s 

He ever flies the Court and legal strife 

Who seeks to sow the seeds of holy life: 
Rarely do camps effect the soul’s increase, 
Virtue and faith are daughters unto peace. 

And the Israelites had good reason to excuse 
themselves to the Babylonians, who urged them to 
sing the sacred Canticles of Sion: How shall we 
sing the song of the Lord ina strange land?* But 
do not forget that those poor people were not only 
among the Babylonians, but were also their cap- 
tives, and whoever is intent only on winning the 
favours of princes, dignities, military honours, 
alas! he is lost, he cannot sing the hymn of 
heavenly love. But he who is at Court, in the 
army, at the bar, only because it is his duty, God 
helps him, and heavenly sweetness is an Epithem 
on his heart, to preserve him from the plague which 
rages round about him. 

There are some kinds of fish, such as salmon, 
and the like, which, instead of losing their flavour, 
become better and more agreeable to the taste when 
they forsake the salt water of the sea for the sweet 
water of rivers. 

*Psalm CXXXVi. 4. 

496 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

Roses smell sweeter when planted near garlic, 
and in like manner there are souls which grow more 
fervent in places where libertinism and irreligion 
seem to drag all virtue at their chariot wheels.’’* 

Our Blessed Father’s piety was of this sort, for, 
knowing that he who is consecrated to God should 
not entangle himself in the intrigues of the world,+ 
he speaks thus to one in whom he confided: “I 
must confess that, as regards business, especially 
that of a worldly nature, I feel myself more than 
ever to be nothing but a poor priest, having, thank 
God, learnt at court to be more simple and less 

Truly, we may say here with the wise man: 
Who is he and we will praise him? for he hath 
done wonderful things in his life.t 


His sad time each year was the Carnival, those 
days of disorder and licence which, like a torrent, 
carry away into excesses of one sort or another even 
the staunchest and most fervent in their piety. 
He felt, indeed, like Job of old, who offered sacri- 
fices and prayers, and afflicted both body and soul 
with fasts and mortifications, while his children 
were passing their time in revellings and banquet- 

As our Blessed Father was all things to all men, 
and weak with the weak, so he also burned with 
the scandalised; and who would not be scandalised 
to see the Pagan festival of the Bacchanalia cele- 
brated among Christians? For this very reason, 
as we know, the name of God is blasphemed by 
many, and the Catholic religion unjustly blamed, 

* Love of God. Book xii.c.4. f2Tim.ii. 4. { Eccles. xxxi. 9, 

An instance of his compassion, dc. 497 

as if it permitted what it cannot prevent, as if it 
commanded what it tolerates with reluctance, as if it 
ordered what it detests and declaims against by the 
mouth of its preachers. Perhaps you would like 
to hear the words in which our Blessed Father 
pours forth his lamentations over this period of the 
year, so full of disorder and confusion. 

“I must tell you,” he says, ‘that now I have 
come to my sorrowful time. From the Epiphany 
even to Lent my heart is full of strange sensations. 
Miserable and detestable as I am, I am weighed 
down with grief to see the loss of so much devotion, 
I mean the falling off of so many souls. These two 
last Sundays I have found our communions 
diminished by one-half. That has grieved me very 
much, for even if those who made them do not give 
way to sin, why, and for what, do they now omit 
them? For nothing at all—out of mere vanity, it 
is that which grieves me.” 


The Church inculcates on the Clergy perfect 
gentleness and kindness. This is why they may 
never take any part in anything involving blood- 
shed. His having shed the blood of a fellow man, 
even when required by the interests of justice, is 
considered a canonical irregularity, and deprives 
a Priest of the right to celebrate Holy Mass. 

Blessed Francis was remarkable for his gentle- 
ness and tender-heartedness towards all creatures. 
I will give you a little instance of this. 

One day he was at my house, when a nobleman 
of distinction called upon us. This gentleman was 
at the head of a hunting party, and seeing in my 


498 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

orchard a roebuck which had been given to me and 
which was peacefully feeding, he proposed, as he 
said, to amuse our Blessed Father by setting his 
dogs upon the poor animal, and to confine the hunt 
to my orchard. 

The good Bishop’s remonstrances were in vain. 
But though he refused to go to the orchard, he 
could not avoid being a witness, however unwill- 
ingly, of what took place, as his room overlooked 
the ground. Great numbers of people came to 
enjoy the spectacle; the horns were blown, the dogs 
barked, while the poor roebuck, as if it knew who 
would fain have been its deliverer, bounding 
towards the window near which the Bishop was 
seated, seemed, like a suppliant, to be imploring 
his help. 

Blessed Francis drew back, and begged as 
earnestly that the hunt might be given up as if he 
had been asking pardon for a criminal. 

He did not see the end, for the animal was at 
once brought to bay and despatched. They wanted 
him to see it when dead, but he did not deign so 
much as to look at it, and when the venison was 
served at table, he most unwillingly partook of the 
dish. ‘* Alas,” he exclained, ‘‘ what hellish plea- 
sure! This is just how infuriated demons pursue 
poor souls by temptations to sin, so as to precipitate 
them into the abyss of everlasting death, yet of that 
no one thinks.” 


Blessed Francis was sometimes taxed with over 
much good nature and gentleness, and was told 
that this was the cause of many disorders which 

Upon Hunting 499 

would not have occurred had he been more whole- 
somely severe. He, however, answered calmly and 
sweetly that he had always in his mind the words 
of the great St. Anselm, the glory of our Alps, 
among which he was born. That Saint, he 
observed, was in the habit of saying that if he had 
to be punished either for being too indulgent or 
being over-rigorous, he would far rather it should 
be for the former. He gave as his reason that 
judgment with mercy would be meted out to the 
merciful, and that God would always have more 
pity on the pitiful than on the rigorous. He went 
on to recall that most sound maxim: Sovereign 
right is only sovereign injustice, and remarked that 
in Holy Scripture those pastors who were over- 
severe were invariably blamed. 

Our Saint used always to say that sugar never 
yet spoilt any sauce, but that too much salt or 
vinegar often did. 

His speaking of St. Anselm’s gentleness reminds 
me of the story told of the same Saint by Blessed 
Francis in his Philothea. ‘‘ One day,” he says, ‘‘as 
he, St. Anselm, was travelling, a hare, being 
closely run by the hounds which pursued it, took 
refuge between his horse’s feet, and the dogs re- 
mained yelping around unable to molest their prey 
in this its strange sanctuary. His followers were 
highly entertained at so novel a spectacle, but Saint 
Anselm groaned and wept. ‘ Even thus,’ said he, 
‘do the enemies of the soul pursue it and drive it 
into all manner of sins, until at the last they can 
kill and devour it, and whilst the terrified soul seeks 
for some refuge and help, its enemies mock and 
laugh if it finds none.’ ’’* 

“Devout Life. Part II. c. 13. 7 

500 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

Our Blessed Father, following the example of 
the holy Archbishop, was invariably kind and 
gentle, even with the brute creation. He not only 
himself never did them harm, but he prevented, 
as far as he could, any being done to them by 
others, for he believed that those who thus inflict 
pain on innocent creatures often, even at the risk 
of their own lives, display a cruel and malevolent 
kind of courage. He went so far as to regard it 
as a venial sin to injure creatures for the sole plea- 
sure of harming them where no advantage of any 
sort would accrue to ourselves; his reason being 
that we in this way deprive them of the joy to be 
found in mere existence bestowed upon them by 

“ What, then,’’ he was asked, “‘do you say to 
the chase, and to the killing of animals for the food 
of man?” ‘‘As regards the food of man,” he 
replied, “‘the very words you use justify the act, 
and it is that end which justifies the chase.’’ From 
this we may conclude that the mere pleasure of the 
chase was not sufficient, in his opinion, to render 
lawful the indulging in it. 

Although he blamed the superstition of the 
Turks, who think that they acquire merit in the 
sight of God by lavishing kindness on senseless 
brutes, even the most savage and cruel, such as 
wolves and lions, still he used to say that this pity 
had a good natural source, and that those who were 
so compassionate to animals were likely to be no 
otherwise to men, nature teaching us not to despise 
our own flesh. In spite of these feelings, he was 
very far from falling into those mistakes which 
casuists enumerate as the result of excess in gentle 
ness and kindness. 

Upon the fear of Ghosts 501 

The various writers of the life of Blessed Francis 
tell us how it was commonly remarked that all 
animals by natural instinct seemed to recognise his 
tender, compassionate feelings for them, and that 
when hunted and pursued, they at once took refuge 
with him, witness the pigeons, which at different 
times when he was saying the Divine Office, flew 
for safety and shelter into his very hands. 


Fear is a natural passion, which, like all the 
others, is in itself neither bad nor good, but bad 
when it is excessive and disquieting, good when it 
is subordinate to reason. There are some who, 
because naturally timid and apprehensive, would 
never dare to speak in public. Others are so afraid 
of thunder and lightning that they faint in a storm. 
Others are afraid of noises at night, and have a 
horror of darkness and solitude. Others, again, 
have so great a fear of ghosts and apparitions that 
they dare not sleep alone in a room. 

I have been told, on good authority, that one of 
our bravest and most distinguished Generals, who 
went to battle as gaily and confidently as he would 
go toa marriage, declared that he could never 
suffer his valet, after settling him for the night, to 
ieave his sleeping apartment, it being quite im- 
possible for him to sleep when left alone at night. 
Our Blessed Father writes in the following con- 
soling manner to a pious person who suffered from 
the weakness of being afraid of ghosts: 

“I am told,” he says, ‘‘that you are afraid of 
spirits. The Sovereign Spirit of our God is every- 
where, and without His Will or permission no other 
spirit dare stir. Those who fear this Divine Spirit 

502 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

ought not to fear any other. You are beneath His 
wings, like a little chicken under those of its 
mother; what do you fear? In my youth I, too, 
was a prey to these imaginations, and in order to 
get the better of them I forced myself when quite 
a child to go alone into places which my fancy had 
peopled with fantastic terrors. I went alone, I say, 
but my heart was armed with confidence in God. 
Now I am grown so strong in this confidence that 
darkness and the solitude of the night are delightful 
to me, since in solitude I realise better the all- 
embracing Presence of God. The good angels are 
there round about us like a company of soldiers on 
guard. The truth of God, says the Psalmist, shall 
compass thee with a shield; thou shalt not be afraid 
of the terror of night.* 

“This feeling of safety you will acquire little by 
little, in proportion as the grace of God grows in 
you: for grace engenders confidence, and confi- 
dence is never confounded.” 

See how, with this timid, fearful soul, he makes 
himself weak and infirm. If I may be permitted 
to add to this great example my own poor and 
worthless experience, I would say that when I was 
young I was greatly afflicted with this weakness. 
It was indeed, perhaps, the chief impediment to 
my entering the Order of St. Bruno, which is, in 
my opinion, the holiest, as it certainly is the most 
retired and the most steadfast of all the religious 
orders. I, however, lost this infirmity as soon as 
I had received the imposition of hands from the 
Blessed Francis de Sales, and I may add that 
Almighty God permitted me to succeed, in the 

*Psaim xi. 5. 

His Portrait 503 

episcopal chair, three Saints of that order which I 
revered so much, namely, Saints Artauld, Audace, 
and Anthelme.? 


I have known great servants of God who would 
not on any account allow their portraits to be 
painted, imagining that their doing so must involve 
some degree of vanity and dangerous self-com- 
placency. Our Blessed Father was not of this 
opinion, but, making himself all things to all men 
that he might win all to Jesus Christ, he made no 
objection to having his portrait taken when asked 
to do so. He gave as his reason that since we are 
obliged by the law of holy charity to communicate 
to our neighbour the representation of our mind, 
imparting to him without dissimulation or jealousy 
what we have learnt concerning the science of sal- 
vation, so we ought to be still less niggardly in 
pleasing our friends by placing before their eyes 
the picture of our outward self which they so 
earnestly desire to have. 

If we see, not only without annoyance, but even 
with pleasure, our books, which are the portraits 
of our minds, in the hands of our fellow men, why 
grudge them the picture of our countenance, if it 
contribute anything to their satisfaction. On this 
subject he expresses himself as follows in one of 
his letters: ‘“‘ Here, then, is the picture of the 

1Six Carthusians occupied the See of Belley: Ponce de 
Balmay, St. Anthelme, Raynauld, St. Arthaut, Bernard, 
and Bd. Boniface of Savoy. (Trésor de Chronologie. Chez 

Palmé, Parts, 1889). Audace, first Bp. of Belley, was not 
canonised, nor was he a Carthusian. 

504 The Spirit of St. Francis De Sales 

earthly man, for I am unwilling to refuse you any- 
thing which you desire. 

“Iam told that my portrait has never been really 
well painted. That, I think, matters very little. 
surely man passeth as an image. Yea, and he is 
disquieted in vain.* 

“ I borrowed it in order to send it to you, for 
I have not myself got my own portrait. Ah! if the 
image of my Creator were imprinted in all its splen- 
dour on my soul, how gladly would I let you see it! 

“O Jesu, tuo lumine, tuo redemptos sanguine, 
sana, refove, perfice, tibi conformes, effice. Amen.” 

Thus did he turn every subject into an occasion 
of elevating the soul to God. 


Since charity was the animating motive of all that 
our Holy Bishop thought, said, or did, and since 
it was in truth his very spirit, we cannot better close 
these reminiscences of that saintly spirit than by 
quoting the words of the Prince of the Apostles: 
Before all things have a constant charity among 
yourselves, for charity covers a multitude of sins. 
Let every one behave himself according to the dis- 
pensation of grace. If any man speak, let him 
speak as the words of God. If any man minister, 
let him do it as of the power which God administers, 
that in all things God may be honoured through 
Jesus Christ, to whom is glory and empire for ever 
and ever. Amen.t 

*Psalm xxxviii. 7 
1 Peter iv. 8, 10, II. 




Abandoning ourselves to God, 278 

Adaptation to times, places, and circumstances, St. Francis’ 

Affability and gravity, His, 203 

Almsgiving, 116 

Ambition, 492 

Anger, His victory over, 319 

Animals, Instance of his compassion for, 497 

Anxieties, On interior repose amidst, 365 

Aspirations, 248 


Beatitude, His favourite, 202 

Benevolence, Love of, 61 

Bishops’ care of their flocks, 438—-The duty of, 440 
Bishop of Belley, Encouragement to, 459—sermon of 481 
Bishopric of Geneva, His promotion to, 434 

Blessed Lady, His devotion to our, 303 

Body, Contempt felt for, 146 


Calmness in tribulation, His, 179 

Calumnies, The virtues we should practise under, 164 
Camus, Advice to on resigning his See, 446 
Charity, the short road to perfection, 50 
Charity and Chastity, 141 

Charity excels both Faith and Hope, 70 
Chastity and Humility, 143 

Christian, Upon the character of a true, 65 
Common life, Upon following, 237 
Communion, "Holy, 305 

Complaining asin, 175 

Complicity in the sins of another, 378 
Compassionate mind, A, 461 

Condescension, a virtue, 103 

Condition in life, Contentment with our, 340 
Confession and Communion, 393-396 
Confessor, Upon a change of, 397 

Confidence in God, 35 

Confraternities, Upon joining, 288 
Confusion (penitent), 364 


C (continued.) 

Considerateness, A Priest should have in saying Mass, 456 
Contentedness, 341 

Contentment in the privation of content, 269 

Contradicting others, Upon, 97 

Controversy, 484 

Convents, The founding of, 424 

Courts and Courtiers, 494 

Criminals who despaired, How he dealt with, 204 

Cross, Upon the shape oi, 185 


Dead, Upon speaking well of the, 346 

Death, 348 

Dependents, The deference due to, 109 

Desires to love God, 69—309 

Desolation of spirit, 279 

Detraction, 90 

Devotion, does not always spring from charity, 265 

Devotion, eccentricities in, 286—its degrees, 261—its test, 
262—to our Blessed Lady, his, 303—to the Holy winding 
Sheet of Turin, his, 306 

Diamond Cross, 186 

Die in God, What it is to, 357 

Die, The wish to, 350 

Dignities ecclesiastical,432—His refusal of, 437 

Diplomacy, Political, 491 

Direction, Different methods of, 399 

Director, Having a, 401 

Discouragement, 367 

Dispensations, The golden mean in, 216 

Distrust of self, 37 

Doing and enduring, 251 

Duty, Doing our, without respect of persons, 463 


Eat of anything that is set before you, 217 
Ejaculatory prayers, 250 

Elect, Small number of the, 122 
Encouragement of the Bishop of Belley, 459 
Enemies, Forging them,1ror—loving them, 99 
Equivocating, 379 

Esteem of men, Despising the, 161 
Exactitude, Love of, 229 

Excuses, 159—for the faults of others, 84 



Faith, Increase of, 30—Temptations against, 31 
Fall, Rising after a, 369 

Fasting, 211—Doubts solved as to soldiers, 215 
Frugality, 223 é 

Gentleness, Power of, 189—with his servants, 113 

God, Abandoning ourselves to Him, 278—Confidence in, 35 
—Disinterested love of, 64—Mercy His throne, 36— 
Presence of, 254—How to speak of, 284—Should suffice 
for us, 49—What it means to be His servant, 263— 
Waiting upon, 42—Will of, 270—Blessed Francis’ unity 
of Spirit with Him, 255 

Good Will, 309 

Government of Nuns by religious men, 427 

Grace of God, Upon its presence in our souls, 280—and 
nature, 297 

Gravity and affability, His, 203 


Heaven, Upon the Desire of, 352 

Humiliation, 156 

Humiliations, Voluntary seeking after, 153 

Humility of Blessed Francis, 147—-Examples of his, 147— 
and Chastity, 143—Various degrees of, 151—Measure 
of, 154—With regard to perfection, 157—1in the will, 151 
—in speech, 150 

Hunting, 498 A 

Illness, His holy indifference in, 183 

Illnesses, Upon long, 181 

oe others, A Priest in his sermons should not aim at, 

Imperfections, 371 

Iinportunities, The bearing with, 174 

Incarnation, Thoughts upon the, 389 

Inclinations, Good natural, 283 

Indifference, His sublime thoughts upon, 274 

Infirm, Upon receiving such into a Community, 425 

Insults, How to profit by, 172 

Introspection, May be exaggerated, 298 

Joy and sadness, 259 
oo. spirit of Blessed Francis, 450 
udgment, Hasty, 93 
Judging others, 86—ourselves, 89 
Just man falls seven times a day, 372 
Justice and Mercy of God, 40 


Kindliness towards ourselves, 370 
Knowledge which puffs up, 382 


Law and the just man, 67 

Learning and piety, 444 

Length of life, 358 

Liberty of spirit, 295 

Love and anger, His victory over, 319 

Love of God in general, 55 

Love of God, All by love, nothing by force, 58—All for the 
love of God, 56—Called love of benevolence, 61—Upon 
disinterested, 64—Upon not putting limits to, 66—What 
it is to love God, 53 

Loving to be hated and hating to be loved, 123 


Magdalen, Holy, at the foot of the Cross, 188 

Malefactors, Condemned, his solicitude for, 121 

Mass, His advice to a Priest upon daily, 453—A Priest cele- 
brating should be considerate of others, 456 

Maxims, some spiritual, 166 

Memory and judgment, 468 

Mercy, God’s throne, 36—and Justice, 40 

Mercenary spirit and a holy desire of reward, Difference 
between, 44 

‘Merit, 308—318 

Misery, our, appeals to God’s mercy, 36 

Modesty, 145 

Mortification, 207—and Prayer, 252 


Name, Upon a good, 161 

Nature and grace, 297 

Natural virtue, 297 

Neighbour, On the pure love of him, 77—Upon bearing with 
him, 79—Upon ridiculing him, 95 

Nuns, Upon the government of by Religious men, 427 


Obedience, 123—Upon Blessed Francis’ exact, 127—that 
may be practised by superiors, the, 126 
Overeagerness, 292 

Passions and emotions, 320 
Passion, Some thoughts upon the, 74 


P (continued.) 

Pastoral charge, Upon the, 441 
Patience, 168—Upon its power, 189—Striking examples of, 
193—In suffering, his test of, 180 
Peace (interior), Amidst anxieties, 365 
Penance, 362 
Perfection, Charity a short road to, 50—On the state of, 219 
—Marks of progress in, 219—In religious houses, 221 
Pharisaism rebuked, 416 
Philosophy (heathen), Upon its vanity, 76 
Philothea, The origin of his book, 323 
z Piety and learning, 444 
Plans, we must not be wedded to our, 430 
Poetry, What he drew from some lines of, 337 
Poor, His love of the, 138 
Portrait, His, 503 
Poverty, the Christian view of, 139—The love of, 129—134 
—The spirit of, 137 
Prayer, Mental, 245 
Preaching and Preachers, 475 
Pro-passions in our Lord, 319 
Prosperity, 140 
Prudence and Simplicity, 242 
Purity of heart, 142 
Purgatory, 360 
Purgative way, 374 


Reason and reasoning, 490 
Recollection (interior), 250 
Recreations, How he sanctified me 335 
Reformation (interior) 299 
Refusing, His never refusing what was asked of him, 118 
Rejoinder, Striking and instructive, 201 
Religious superiors, 418 
Reproaches, Quiet endurance of, 153 
Resignation to the Will of God, His 271 
Respect of persons, Doing our duty without, 463 
Retirement, His love of 333 
/ Reward, Holy desire of, 44 


Saints, the example of the, 330 

Sanctity, The odour of, 415 

Scripture, Quoting Holy, 490 

Scruples, 384 

See, Advice to M. Camus as to resigning his, 446 
Self-distrust, 37 


S (continued.) 

Self-knowledge, 38 

Self-pity 427 

Self-sufficiency and coptentedness, 341 

Sermons, The love of them, 332—Short, 472 

Servants, Deference due to, 10og—The way to treat, 111 

Sick, The care of the, 344—His reverence for, 342 

Simplicity, His esteem of the virtue of, 226—and prudence, 

Sin, Venial, 376 

Sins of another, Complicity in, 378—That he who complains 
sins, 175 

Sinners, His hopefulness of their conversion, 117 

Slander, go—Solitude, Upon, 379 

Soul, The wish to save our, 282 

Souls, The care of, 442 

Spirit, Liberty of, 295 

Spiritual consolations, His gratitude for, 256 

Suffering, His test of patience in, 180 

Superiors, Religious, unlearned, 422 

Tauler, a saying of, 247 
Tears, The shedding of 258 
Temptations, Upon, 385 
Trinity, His vision of, 301 


Vanity, 381 

Virtue (Perfect), 25—The honour due to it, 465 

Virtues, His estimate of the, 26—Lesser virtues, 28—We 
should practice when calumniated, 1647 

Visitation Order, Upon the institution of, 407—His defence 
of his New Congregation, 412 

Vision of the Most Holy Trinity, 301 

Vocations, 238—Religious, Test of, 233 

Vows, Against making rash, 310 

Will of God, 270—Nothing save sin happens to us but by 
the Will of God, 275—Hlis resignation to, 271—That we 
must always submit our will to it, 273 
Winding sheet, Holy of Turin, His devotion to, 306 
Word of God, The love of the, 332 
World, Intercourse with, 289 


Zeal, True and mistaken, 404—-For souls, 440, 441, 442. 

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